Who knew that Belgians were so into bluegrass music? Or that Belgian filmmakers were into the same kind of emotional manipulation practiced by crass Hollywood tearjerkers? Despite its capricious chronology, with its ping-pong flashbacks and flash-forwards, “The Broken Circle Breakdown” — adapted by Felix van Groeningen and Carl Joos from the play by Johan Heldenbergh (who also costars in the movie) and Mieke Dobbels — could be mistaken for a Lifetime TV tearjerker.
OK, maybe a TV movie wouldn’t venture into the same regions of grief, despair, and intimacy, or that gray area between faith and rationality. Also to its credit, the film’s effective use of live musical performances to enhance mood and underscore emotion evokes such superior films as Matthew Porterfield’s “I Used to Be Darker” and the upcoming “Inside Llewyn Davis” (opens in Boston Dec. 20) from the Coen brothers. Too bad it wastes its potential for honest emotion with schmaltz, cheap shots, and clichés.