Parents' Guide to

Broken Diamonds

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Heartfelt but uneven mental illness drama; language.

Movie PG-13 2021 90 minutes
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The talented stars of this drama give capable performances, but the script falls into the trap of using a character with mental illness to impact the main character's growth. Platt and Kirke do fine work with the roles as given. They have a tender rapport, and both give nuanced performances as 20-somethings living without much parental support -- just each other. But there's a sense of unease watching Broken Diamonds play out, because it's off-putting to see a character who has a mental illness function primarily as a supporting character who changes the main character's life -- a cliché that has been criticized as tokenism for decades. Cindy's story arc includes perceived stereotypes and extreme symptoms of how schizophrenia manifests itself in young adults (voices, delusions, hallucinations, trouble concentrating, movement disorders), but they're all shown from Scott's perspective. Cindy's actions and struggles are viewed as important primarily because of how they impact him (and he has his own emotional issues to process), not her.

It's difficult to see past the movie's fundamental flaw because of Cindy's lack of agency as a character. Additionally, Ben's own character is limited to that of grieving son and put-upon brother, without exploring other areas of his life -- like his friendships, his plans in Paris (other than as a metaphor), or his past, aside from a couple of conversations with Cookie and his mom (over the phone). As with his directorial debut Camp X Ray (which he also wrote), Peter Sattler once again shows that he knows how to capture talented performances, but the execution here ultimately falls short because of the screenplay's missteps.

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