While positioned as a horror film — especially due to the presence of genre icon Tobin Bell — Kenny Yates’ ReBroken is a harrowing psychological tale about tragedy and the lingering effects it has on everyone left behind. The trailer sells the idea of a ghost story here; however, these apparitions are more akin to allegories for the haunted human spirit and fractured soul.
Will (Scott Hamm Duenas) is a grieving father who lost his daughter. He is stuck in a living nightmare where he drinks and relives the night of her passing over and over again. After being ordered to attend grief counselling, he meets a woman named Lydia (Nija Okoro) at these sessions. She tells him of a mysterious man named Von (Tobin Bell) who can help him. When Von gives Will vinyl records to listen to, strange occurrences start to happen in Will’s home and he believes he can connect with his deceased daughter. However, Will’s counselling group appear to be poking around in his business, and not all is as it seems…
An analysis of the cycle of grief
There’s a part in ReBroken where Lydia questions why there isn’t a sixth stage of grief: reversal. It’s interesting as it’s an argument that could be made in the bargaining and depression stages — and something most people ponder as what-if scenarios — but it’s also the catalyst for the rest of the film’s premise. ReBroken poses the simple question: What would someone do if they could reverse the cycle of events?
Beneath the surface, though, ReBroken has an altogether different theme. This isn’t about reversing the effects of tragedy, but about what happens when grief isn’t processed. It becomes a cycle where the person breaks over and over again, hence the name ReBroken. The ending of the film isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, nor should it be. After every tragedy, a person loses a part of them, too. However, it’s about how someone continues moving forward, with the scars and memories — and it isn’t always easy to do.
There’s a dreamlike quality to ReBroken as cinematographer Nate Stifler uses the filming style to emphasise what Will goes through on screen. At times, it can feel confusing and jarring to the viewer since it isn’t always obvious if what is happening is real or not. However, when the twist reveals itself, the film’s choices become much clearer. With a story like this, it would have been easy for Yates to go even more eccentric in the filmmaking approach, but the director chooses to keep the film slim in its runtime and edit.
As expected, Bell steals the show when he appears on screen, though he isn’t in ReBroken as much as one might expect. Thus, the onus falls on Duenas, who conceptualised this story in the first place, to carry the film. While Duenas’ performance comes across as muted in the beginning, the cracks start to show, displaying a man who is broken beyond repaired and numbing himself to forget the worst day of his life. By the end of the film, one can’t help but sympathise with him and to realise the power of a single event changes his life forever.
ReBroken is an ambitious film, to say the least. In a way, it’s reminiscent to how M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village was promoted before the release, as the audience might expect a scary horror going into it and feel disappointed when it veers off in a completely different direction. That said, stick with it. There’s a powerful, rousing story underneath it that may connect with others who have suffered immense tragedy.