John (Jack Reynor) is a taxi driver. He lives with his mother Jean (Toni Collette). Jean is an alcoholic and John doesn’t really know how to take care of her anymore. After he has to bring her to the hospital and the doctors inform him of how bad her state really is, he know that he will have to get her sober. But programs that could help require money, money he doesn’t really have.
Glassland is a small film in the best way: it doesn’t need much to tell its story and it tells it well. Unfortunately, the film steps out of its own perimeter and tries to go big in the end – and that just doesn’t really work. Still, up until that part, it’s very much worth seeing.
Most of Glassland is John not talking a whole lot and going about his daily business: driving a taxi, meeting his best friend Shane (Will Poulter), visiting his brother Kit (Harry Nagle) and worrying about his mother. And the film really wouldn’t have needed any more than that. Reynor has a magnetic presence, as does Collette and their interactions are just fantastic.
Sometimes I did wish that the film had subtitles – the Irish accents are thick (I don’t know if they’re any good, I’m really not good with accents. But it is a little weird that none of the main cast is actually Irish in this Irish film set in Ireland) and I didn’t catch every word. But during the most important parts, there is no problem understanding them.
Unfortunately, towards the end of the film, things that had been hinted at before take a bit more center stage as John’s desperation to pay for his mother’s treatment makes him turn to crime. This part felt like another film intruding on the domestic film we had seen so far. I wouldn’t have needed it, especially since it ends on that note, shifting focus away from the central story – and leaving too many things up in the air.
But apart from that, Glassland is an engaging film that shows just how difficult things can be, when you’re poor and don’t have many people to rely on. And when your parent is one of those people you can’t rely on, could never rely on and you basically have to parent them, and maybe your siblings, too. It’s unfair, but it’s the reality for many.