Following a brief stint in Hollywood, starring in the most recent Transformers movie, Jack Reynor now returns to home soil with a turn in the uncompromising, sombre drama Glassland. It’s refreshing to see the talented actor back in a role of this ilk, especially given it was his performance in What Richard Did which first brought him to our attention. Similarly to that title, this Gerard Barrett picture is a candid, voyeuristic character study that revels in the mundane, and to an equally as absorbing effect.
Reynor plays a local cab driver John, who finds his alcoholic mother Jean (Toni Collette) lying comatose in her bed, close to death following another heavy session of drinking. They both know that if she doesn’t get her act together soon, she won’t be around for much longer – and John takes it upon himself to help her out of this destructive hellhole, but is fully aware that his only chance of doing so requires her full cooperation, and the assistance of local social worker Jim (Michael Smiley).
Whether it be watching John eat cereal in the morning, or brushing his teeth, either way Barrett has painted a naturalistic, intimate study of this young man, that allows for us to form a bond of sorts, and remain on-side throughout – which is crucial as we approach the latter stages. Reynor is magnificent in the role, so empathetic and relatable. He manages to act so remarkably with little dialogue, while Collette is equally as impressive, except in a far less brooding and more theatrical a turn. The pair ensure the film remains captivating throughout; though it’s a shame that we don’t see enough of Smiley, nor Will Poulter who plays John’s best friend Shane. Meanwhile, the unforgiving approach taken does feel contrived in parts, but never cliched – even if Barrett can be accused of losing sight of the crux of the narrative, taking on one too many themes and deviating away from simplicity in the final act.
Nonetheless, the filmmaker must be commended for handling such themes in a unique way, and even just for exploring them in the first place. Alcoholism is a very prevalent issue in society, and so often when studied in cinema it’s looking at the alcoholic themselves, seeing the world from their perspective – but we forget about the other victims involved, such as the children – and this tackles that very notion, and thankfully, in such an accomplished manner too.