Harold and Jacob in Harold’s car learning how to use their walkie-talkies.
Broken Down takes us to a somewhat rundown neighborhood in New Orleans. There are buildings yet to be repaired from storm damage, but people are still living in houses there and getting along with their lives. All except for Harold (Sam Cobean), who is living in his car, parked in front of an empty lot where he and his family used to live. Harold suffers from some serious mental issues, the main one being agoraphobia. Harold now is deathly afraid of leaving his car even though the neighborhood is relatively peaceful and safe. Harold suffers from nightmares and when he is awake, he fears even opening one of the doors, although he will open the windows when needed to intake food or supplies, or smoke a cigarette.
Jacob is confronted by Randy.
Harold is fortunate in the fact that there are still people in his life concerned about him, starting with Miss Rita (Lisha Wheeler) a long time nieghbor and friend, who facilitates his survival by doing shopping for him and keeping away police and others who wish to bother Harold or force him out of his car. Additionally, Harold has family members who still care about him, a sister Bonny (Laura Street Dopson), a brother Billy, (Matt Story), and long time friend Rico (Eduardo Losan), who still come and visit him on a regular basis, with the guys sharing a bottle of whiskey, some beers, and talking. But whenever the topic comes up of when Harold will leave the car and start a road to recovery, he freaks out and shuts them out. Eventually they are frustrated by Harold’s stubbornness and unwillingness to address the serious problems in his life and start to give up on him when he refuses all their efforts to help. Things gain a greater urgency when the police serve him with a fourteen day notice to move his car or it will be towed away.
Jacob runs a long extension cord out to Harold’s car.
Luckily for Harold, a new friend comes into play, thirteen-year-old Jacob, another neighbor who gradually gets to know him by continually offering him kind actions. These include bringing over food, cigarettes, a power cord and portable barbecue from his house and even setting up communication with a walkie-talkie set. Jacob lives nearby with his single mom, Jenny (Becki Hayes). They have serious problems of their own from her abusive and violent boyfriend Randy (Patrick Logan), a big brute of a man who bullies them when he is around, and justifying his actions by telling them “See what you made me do” after hurting Jacob or Jenny. Harold can only watch this from afar with concern. Randy is even jealous of Harold, who he calls “the freak” when he sees how both Jacob and Jenny are building a friendship with Harold. As time begins to run out on the forced movement of Harold’s car, Jacob is the only one doing practical things like bringing over gas for the car, repairing a flat tire, and getting a jump start to revive the battery.
Jacob with his mom in the hospital after Randy breaks his wrist.
The story line is fairly predictable as it builds to its conclusion, and events are even telegraphed in the film’s tagline. There are some improbable things about Harold’s existence in his car that have to be overlooked as well. But the focus of this film is about understanding the needs of people with mental issues and how the power of friendship can be helpful in motivating positive change. We see the first theme by the response of the neighbors and family, led by Miss Rita. We see the second as loners Harold and Jacob build their friendship. There are excellent performances by Sam Cobean and Aiden Hartman in the leading roles along with fine support by Lisha Wheeler and Becki Hayes. Writer and director Jessy Cale Williamson keeps the pace of the film moving and keeps you engaged throughout. While the film has potential as a family film, parents should be advised that there are some extremely violent scenes with Randy and one of the policemen, most likely making it unsuitable for younger kids.
Jacob fixes Harold’s flat tire.
Jacob riding his bicycle in the neighborhood.
Aiden Hartman (Jacob) wears black high top chucks throughout the film, typical footwear for a thirteen-year-old kid. The cinematography is chucks-friendly in places starting with the nice coincidence of Aiden’s film credit coming up as the camera focuses in on his chucks while he rides his bicycle. There is a nice sequence also when Jacob is in his under the house hideout testing out his walkie-talkie with Harold.
Jacob contacts Harold on his walkie-talkie.
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