John (Jack Reynor) finds himself at the end of his tether when his mother Jean (Toni Collette) is hospitalised for alcohol poisoning. Determined to get her the help she needs, John turns to a shadowy underworld that he has skirted the edges of in the past.
Glassland, the second film from Pilgrim Hill director Gerard Barrett is as bleak as its predecessor, showing Dublin in a rather unfavourable light, but this is a film about friendship and the lengths we will go to in order to support and save our families.
Jack Reynor is making strong choices in his career so far – yes, even Transformers was a clever move for the actor – and Glassland keeps this trend going. Reynor proves, once again, that he is capable of strong and subtle performances, and that he is more than able to carry the film. Toni Collette is on frightening form as John’s mother Jean; the audience is never sure what she will do next, and her performance swings from powerful to vulnerable within the space of a single scene. Will Poulter plays a young Dubliner incredibly well, and although it may seem that he is dismissive of everyone and everything around him, his affection for John is shown through comfortable silence and vulgar in-jokes. Michael Smiley rounds out the cast in a surprisingly gentle role.
Gerard Barrett’s screenplay tells a rather simple but well observed story about friendship and loyalty. There is a delicate balance created in the film, between anger and love, between teasing and affection and between necessity and desperation. There is enough comment made on the current economic situation, and other issues in Ireland without the audience being beaten over the head with them, and Barrett has captured the rhythm and cadence of the Dublin accent well.
As director, Barrett appears to observe the action, rather than sculpt it, showing his talent as a director. The chemistry and relationships on screen are honest and believable, as are much of the interactions between the characters. There are some conversations, however, that feel a little on the staged or forced side, which detract from the film as a whole. That said, there are some clever and funny throwaway moments that elevate the film into something special. Piers McGrail’s cinematography carefully and competently elevates the look and feel of the film.
In all, Glassland is a strong follow up to Gerard Barrett’s first film, and showcases Reynor, Collette and Poulter at their very best. The film is carefully observed, funny and tragic, but suffers from some scenes that ring a little more hollow than others.