Saint Petersburg, Florida is renowned for its leisurely lifestyle, cultural riches and sun-drenched beaches. But like most cities across the United States, this alluring sheen hides an underbelly of dysfunction and despair. Broken Lives Illustrated peers deep within these corners of society that hide in plain sight, and delivers twelve remarkably intimate portraits of the city's growing homeless population.
Each subject testifies to a series of unfortunate events which have led them to this soul-crushing point in their life journey. In hearing their stories, we are reminded of the thin line that often exists between the blessed and the down-trodden.
There's the transplant from another state who came to Florida in the hopes of finding carpentry work. Unable to procure employment, he now lacks reliable shelter or the means to improve his situation in any meaningful measure.
Another member of the community speaks of the paranoia and violence that accompanies life on the streets. Beatings, thefts and murders are common occurrences in his world. His only reprieve from the madness comes in the form of a government disability check, which can only afford him an occasional night's stay in a cheap motel.
An older man traces his current predicament to the severe abuse he endured as a child while attending reform school. His ongoing daily struggles are a direct reflection of the emotional scars that were inflicted upon him all those years ago.
Aspects of their stories will be familiar to everyone, including issues related to drug addiction, mental illness, divorce, financial ruin, workplace cutbacks and just plain bad luck. None of us are immune to the challenges life throws at us; they are part of the human condition.
This is the kind of film that works best when it can provoke a strong sense of empathy in its audience. On this front, Broken Lives Illustrated succeeds brilliantly. This achievement is mirrored by the efforts of co-director Jake Troyli, a graphic artist who is shown sketching portraits of each interview subject on-camera. His drawings - much like the film itself - expose an underlying poetry and shared humanity that exists in all of us.
Directed by: Nick Brengle, Jake Troyli