A taxi driver tries to protect his family in modern day Dublin.
Glassland is the second feature from Kerry-born filmmaker Gerard Barrett. The 27 year old made a big splash with the micro-budgeted drama Pilgrim Hill in 2013 and he’s upped his game in every way for the follow up.
Now I wasn’t much of a fan of Pilgrim Hill but Ican’t help admiring Barrett who simply decided he was going to be a filmmaker and has forged a career in just a few short years. He’s a very smart young man, working brilliantly within the constraints of his budgets crafting progessional productions under very limited time frames.
And so it goes with Glassland. Shot in 16 days in a freewheeling style with hand help cameras, location work and clever actor shuffling – consider Will Poulter and Toni Collete were only available for about 4 days each. And it’s another impressive feat in a great many ways.
The story is all about Jack Reynor’s John – a man who does whatever work he can to support his ailing alcoholic mother (Collette) including crossing some morally shady lines. He desperately wants to keep his family together and that’s the main dramatic thrust of the film, with a few minor sidelines like his relationship with pal Poulter.
It’s not a fast paced film but it does have its dramatic highpoints, often dealing with the antagonism and painful love between Collette and Reynor’s characters. She’s an unrepentant drunk, with an early scene lingering on the unvarnished reality of the disease in a way few films manage. Reynor’s attempts to connect with her are many and varied and cleverly written and they are scenes which many viewers will sadly find familiar.
Barrett does a great job of maintaining the emotional connection between the pair even when things get extremely fraught, and the breakdown which eventually ensues is a really powerful scene. There are quiet moments too, with one of my favourites being a gentle farewell between Reynor and Poulter. It’s something we’ve all experienced and it’s handled in a fashion that’s graceful and measured.
Reynor is strong here as the lead, adding a little north Dublin to his accent and mostly buttoning down his frustrations and rage. I found Australian Collette’s accent impressive as someone from the country who moved up to the capital, and she has a really tough job of being monstrous and still somewhat sympathetic.
But its Poulter who really impresses – the 22 year old actor who you may recognise from We’re the Millers was born and bred in London but adopts a near perfect Dublin tone, complete with slang and swagger and provides much needed comic relief as well as dramatic moments.
It’s an actor’s film then and that’s reflected in the fairly meagre plotting which makes the last act start to drag. Thankfully, Barrett wraps things up at a brisk 93 minutes but it still sometimes feels padded and meandering at times.
Still, Glassland represents incredible work as the second film from a very young filmmaker. And it’s amazing to see Barrett literally learning on the job, finding his feet as a director and his own specific voice which we’ll see refined further in future efforts. And I can’t wait to see what he does next, including novel adaptation Brain on Fire with Charlize Theron and Dakota Fanning. He’s going to be big.
Read our interview with director Gerard Barrett here.