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Streaming from BritBox, ‘Broken’ Illustrates How Everyone is Fighting Something
October 18, 2017  | By David Hinckley  | 3 comments

You won’t start watching a show called Broken because you think it will cheer you up, and this British import won’t.

Broken, which stars Sean Bean (top) as troubled priest Michael Kerrigan, aired earlier this year in the U.K. and becomes available Wednesday on the streaming service BritBox.

Bean gives a terrific performance in a bleak landscape. While his parish in the working-class section of a Northern town seems to draw a modest crowd, the severe struggles of several congregants compound his own.  

Not that he’s complaining. Helping people navigate this life is what he signed up to do, and there are times when trying to aid those with more urgent issues helps him temporarily put aside his own.

Anna Friel (right) plays Christina Fitzsimmons, a woman with three small children, an absent ex, and the very real and immediate problems of paying the rent and putting food on the table.

Toward that end, she “borrows” 60 pounds from her employer’s till, leaving a note that she will repay it. Her boss sees that as theft and sacks her, leaving her both broke and virtually unemployable.

She seeks emergency public benefits and is told she probably will need to wait 13 weeks, which doesn’t help where tonight and tomorrow night’s dinner are concerned.

The unblinking detail with which Christina’s plight is portrayed in Broken makes her story tragically visceral. While she seems to be a decent person and a loving mother, we know it’s only a matter of time before she will make some bad choice because she feels she has no other option.

We also know Father Kerrigan will have no magic solution.

Christina turns out to be only the first parishioner with no visible path to relief. Soon we meet Roz Demichelis (Paula Malcomson, below right, with Bean), who has made a decision Father Kerrigan must convince her to rethink. Quickly.

That doesn’t mean Broken leaves us with only bad situations and worse endings. It’s more like creator Jimmy McGovern wants to underscore the toll on someone like Father Kerrigan, who must find faith and redemption amid life’s cruel injustices.

Kerrigan’s own demons don’t all show up at once. They unfold slowly throughout the six-episode series, in flashbacks to a childhood that seems to have been populated almost entirely by angry adults who verbally and physically abuse him.

That might explain why he chose a profession where he could comfort and help similar victims. It does not explain, at least at first, what these adults considered their provocation. If any.

The flashbacks often seem to involve a falcon, if that provides any clues.

His relationship with the people he wants to help sometimes seems relatively warm and at other times becomes mostly awkward.

He’s sensible most of the time and can be forceful when it seems necessary. We know he’s also bringing his own troubles to the table, which again here feels like an honest reflection of how things work.

Christina and Roz and the other ordinary people in Broken aren’t being touched by an angel. They’re getting a hand from a fellow traveler who knows the road is hard.

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Cheryl Kennedy
I haven’t enjoyed a series this much in a long time. Father Michael drew me right in. (Can Sean Bean act or what!? Give that guy an award!) I was so bummed to hear there is no Season 2. Give us more series like this, please!
Jun 24, 2020   |  Reply
Gwen Hoover
Just watched on Netflix, excellent portrayals, touches on multiple troubling issues, including priest pedophilia, homosexuality, police "code of silence", suicide, and how a troubled priest attempts to pastor. Excellent.
Jun 22, 2020   |  Reply
brenda hall
great...love sean bean. this acknowledges life as it is and not as we wish it to be. would love to see more...
Oct 20, 2017   |  Reply
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