There’s so much to like about Belgian filmmaker Felix van Groeningen’s drama THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN, yet it’s rarely an easy watch; so damned sad, but wonderfully so. The story is simple – bluegrass music devotee and performer Didier meets tattoo artist Elise (who turns out to be a talented singer in her own right). They fall in love, and have a daughter, Maybelle. For six years, they share an idyllic life together, until tragedy strikes when Maybelle is diagnosed with cancer. As each of the parents deal with the pain of this experience, some fundamental differences between them emerge, straining their love to breaking point.

Van Groeningen and co-screenwriters Carl Joos and Charlotte Vandermeersch have done an impressive job of adapting the stage play, enhanced by Ruben Impens’ subtle, naturalistic cinematography and two excellent, intimate performances from the leads. Then of course, there’s the music: operating in the same part of the musical spectrum as O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU, beautifully re-appropriated to a fractured narrative of a fractured family. You may ever only want to watch it once, but once will be enough, for all the best reasons.

THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN is released May 15 in Australia.