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lunes, 27 de abril de 2015

Glassland

Review

Glassland is the story of a son acting as a parent. It is a tale about the heart-breaking effects of exchanging roles because of addiction. “You are a good boy”, says Jean to her son John. A son who certainly gains the sympathy of the audience by trying to find his mother in the monster she has turned into; in that insensitive and self-centred addict who rejects anything and anybody else but her handsome and caring son.

John (Jack Reynor) works long hours as a taxi driver to support his family. These days he is not able to recognise Jean (Toni Collette) who has fallen into alcoholism. He takes care of her the best way he can, but she is killing herself slowly, passing out drinking and becoming this animalistic addict who lives only to have that one last drink. The nature of John´s work and the shame of asking anyone for help to save Jean from her self-dug hole of desperation, make him a lonesome individual. He transforms into a man unable to give away much about his feelings and his real circumstances, even to those seemingly closer to him. John lives in Tallaght, in a terraced house, but he is detached from the world.

Director Gerard Barrett makes an honest incursion into the loneliness that comes with handling a traumatic experience such as this. It passes a few days in these characters´ home, makes them talk and explain, not just with words, what it´s like to live with an alcoholic -or a heroin addict, or a cocaine user…- and watch the destruction they are bringing upon themselves. Collette gives life to a character we don’t feel for, but who we hope recovers for the sake and efforts of her devoted son.

Glassland is set in Dublin, in Tallaght to be more precise, but it´s a movie that could have been filmed anywhere. When addiction hits a family, the way to deal with it, the wish of wiping everything away and a fresh start is all common ground. As much as it is the isolation that takes over whoever is fighting the battles to recover a relative from their illness.

The orange lamppost light, the raindrops in the windshield and a bitter cold air allow us to recognise Dublin in this film. But it also helps to set the tone for a frank and hard story about the reality of being in charge of someone´s life, even though the natural order says you should be the one still being taken care of. This is not a difficult watch because of the violence on screen or the dramatic scenes. The silence and the contained anguish we can see in John´s eyes speak up more than any more violent interaction between him and his mother.

Those traditionally dramatic passages leave a mark on the viewer. John’s recording with his mobile phone or his speech to convince Jean to check into a rehab centre. But the most disturbing moments come from a domestic setting such as having a glass of wine and a chat with your mum. Who is this stranger he is taking care of?

Glassland is a singular movie because of the way it came together, it was filmed in sixteen days and it managed to get Colette to play one of the main roles. Certainly the clarity about what the story should be like and the freedom enjoyed by its director does this film a great favour, and so does the outstanding acting featured in it.

Barrett doesn’t use a soundtrack in the conventional sense. He does experiment with the sound and editing to create tension. This manipulation of the background noise, the dead silence and the louder interactions puzzled together make this film an unsettling tale that will leave the cinema with you. Glassland will challenge you with elements of your own, close or hopefully not that close, dysfunctional family.  

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