1. Best Screenplay
The screenplay is based off the stage play by lead actor Johan Heldenbergh and Mieke Dobbels, which was performed all over Belgium and spotted by director Felix Van Groeningen. It tells the story of Didier, a bluegrass singer and idealistic atheist, and Elise, a tattoo artist and spiritual realist, who fall in love and later have their relationship and faith tested when they undergo a tragedy involving their young daughter, Maybelle. The script tackles religion and healing in a more difficult and honest way than we’re used to seeing, and explores the idea of sharing grief when spiritual views come to a head.
2. Best Sound Mixing
The Broken Social Circle Breakdown tells a story through music, and it’s no wonder the dynamic covers of folk and bluegrass classics have helped the film garner an immense craze in Europe. “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn” is brought to life with hi-speed banjos, while “If I Needed You” proves to be a gentler, sadder duet reminiscent of “Falling Slowly” in Once. Nearly every song summons a mood that is bittersweet and romantic, fitting in perfectly with the story.
3. Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Elise’s tattoos instantly make you want to get inked, and her hair gradually transitions from pin-up to slightly disheveled as the movie progresses. But, mostly, her tattoos are THE BEST.
4. Best Actress in a Leading Role
Veerle Baetens won Best Actress at the Tribeca Film Festival and Best European Actress at the European Film Awards, and for good reason — her layered portrayal of a woman desperately trying to hold everything together is something to behold. Also, she has a lovely set of pipes.
5. Best Actor in a Leading Role
On top of co-writing and directing the original play, Heldenbergh has proven he has some serious acting chops as Didier, a man the audience never truly figures out until the film’s conclusion. He also sings like a boss and gives an incredibly heartbreaking monologue about religion.
6. Best Cinematography
The narrative arc in this film isn’t anything short of dramatic, and the camerawork reflects the changing of tides in Didier and Elise’s lives flawlessly. Between lush shots of their silhouettes, spinning zoom-ins during musical performances, and simple moments at Didier’s rustic home, the cinematography impresses without being too heavy-handed.
7. Best Production Design
The film creates a unique world that fuses Belgian and American cultures together seamlessly, as Didier and Elise integrate American music into their lives and discuss the impact of American politics on the world. “[It] reflects the ambiguous feelings a lot of Europeans have about America — because it influences pop culture. And it’s used as a metaphor to show that [Didier] is a dreamer and idealizes everything, but reality catches up with him and his dream falls apart,” Van Groeningen said.
8. Best Original Score
Bjorn Eriksson wrote a few beautiful and varied pieces for the soundtrack, including “Dusty Mixed Feelings,” “Carved Tree Inn,” and “Where Are You Heading, Tumbleweed?” that fill in the gaps of time where the characters aren’t singing.
9. Best Director
Van Groeningen had to tackle a lot in this film, having to balance political statements and difficult moral questions with what is, at its core, a love story. As an added challenge, he was directing it all as a more sophisticated version of a jukebox musical. And, given the amount of praise the film has already received abroad, he’s done a fine, fine job.