Now showing in Hong Kong

Film review: Glassland – Toni Collette, Jack Reynor tug heartstrings as mother and son in grim Irish drama

Director Gerard Barrett’s minimalist movie is a tough tale of alcoholism and poverty with an arthouse feel in the Ken Loach style; it’s in Hong Kong two years after its Sundance festival premiere

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 1:00pm

4/5 stars

Although it’s delivered in a raw and bleak way, this uncompromising drama from Irish director Gerard Barrett is extremely touching. A tough story about how poverty forces people to do things that disgust them to survive is humanised by the manner Barrett steadfastly avoids using melodrama and sentimentality to gain the audience’s sympathy.

John (Jack Reynor) is a young taxi driver who lives with his mother, Jean (Toni Collette), in a poor district of Dublin, Ireland. There’s not much money to be made and John is just scraping by. Jean is an alcoholic prone to violent outbursts which are getting progressively worse. A good son, John wants to help his mother, but a rehab clinic is far too expensive. When a shady criminal offers him the cash on condition he takes a morally untenable job, John faces a disturbing dilemma.

Leaning heavily towards a Ken Loach style of realism, Barrett simply puts the story up on the screen for viewers to respond in their own way. Only the heartless will fail to be moved by this grim tale, which finally finds its way to Hong Kong screens two years after premiering at Sundance Film Festival.

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Glassland has a minimalist purity to it, and Barrett avoids manipulation and lets the images and characters speak for themselves. The acting is forceful and credible, with Collette putting it all out there as a drunk, and Reynor holding it all inside as her long-suffering son. The fact Barrett doesn’t feel the need to explain every last detail, thereby leaving a few loose ends, also gives the film a nice art-house feel.

Glassland opens on January 19

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