GLASSLAND (Ireland/15A/93mins)

Directed by Gerard Barrett. Starring Jack Reynor, Toni Collette, Will Poulter, Michael Smiley, Joe Mullins, Harry Nagle, Gary O’Nuallain, Shashi Rami, Kian Murphy, Darine Ni Dhonnchadha.

THE PLOT: Young Dublin taxi driver John (Reynor) is having a hard time making ends meet. Living with an alcoholic mother (Collette) doesn’t help, of course, especially when the house often feels the brunt of her anger and desperation. Life isn’t all that much easier for his buddy, Shane (Poulter), who decides it’s time to head to greener shores. For John, leaving home isn’t quite so easy, and he takes on a few questionable passengers who have little choice in their fate too just to fund some much-needed rehab for his mum…

THE VERDICT: You have to admire the balls on Tralee filmmaker Gerard Barrett – he may look like the silent type, but every bit as ambitious and daring as his polar opposite, Terry McMahon. With films that are far more Dardenne than diddley-aye, Barrett shines a light into the darkest corner, revealing universal if ugly truths about loneliness, despair, loss, losing, and all that other good stuff that builds character.

That his no-budget 2013 feature debut PILGRIM HILL (shot on a wing and €4,500) should prove such a critical hit explains the giant leap in star power here (no offence, Joe Mullins, cameoing here as a taxi driver). And full credit to Barrett for not going full-on epic for that difficult second film either, Glassland repeating PILGRIM HILL’s trick of taking its sweet time in telling its tale. Barrett knows that more is often said in the silences.

Yep, there’s a lot of sitting in the dark here, as characters simmer in their own anger and disappointment. And that silence lets you hear every plate scrape, every munch, every goddamn breath. All that silent emoting is titanium to a thespian, of course, and Collette and Reynor carry that burden well. It’s Poulter who shines though, the English scamp having a habit of stealing whatever show he happens to be in. The swine.


Review by Paul Byrne

Review by Paul Byrne
3.0Poulter Shines
  • filmbuff2011

    Gerard Barrett’s first film Pilgrim Hill was a stark depiction of isolation and loneliness in rural Ireland. His award-winning second film Glassland builds on the strength of Pilgrim Hill, but it also tackles similar themes in an urban setting. John (Jack Reynor) is a young Dublin taxi driver struggling to make ends meet. It doesn’t help that he has a highly volatile mother, Jean (Toni Collette). She has a debilitating disease which is gradually eating away at her – alcoholism. Abandoned by her former partner, Jean has to look after her three children. Well, two children and a mentally disabled one that she dismisses as ‘a thing’. John is the only stable force in her life, but he’s increasingly unable to cope with her Exorcist-style outbursts and erratic behaviour. To help her out, he brings her to AA supervisor Jim (Michael Smiley). In order to find the money to support her recovery, he has to turn to dark deeds… That difficult second feature so common among new directors is not present here. Glassland is a hugely impressive film, achieving maximum dramatic and emotional impact with minimal dialogue and scenery. These are deeply flawed characters, but you also get the sense that deep down they’re decent people just trying to sort through the mess that their lives are in. The central performances from Reynor and Collette are outstanding. Reynor is fast becoming a name to watch and he’s able to convey the pain and moral dilemma his character is in by simply looking into space. Collette is given a challenging part to play, but she more than rises to the challenge. Jean is not beyond redemption and it takes a talented actor like Collette to keep her dramatic arc credible. Special mention should also go to Will Poulter, playing John’s friend Shane. Sporting a spot-on Irish accent, he brings some comic relief to the grim proceedings, thanks to his interactions with his typically Irish, doting mammy. Made for just €250,000, Glassland is firm proof that you can make a great film with very little money. To also make a film that has such strong resonance long after the credits roll is something that Barrett should be proud of. Yes, we Irish can make good films. Highly recommended. ****