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  Glassland Hope Of Deliverance
Year: 2014
Director: Gerard Barrett
Stars: Jack Reynor, Will Poulter, Toni Collette, Michael Smiley, D.J. McGrath, Shashi Rami, Gary Ó'Nualláin, Joe Mullins, Melissa Maria Carton, Darine Ní Dhonnchadha, Graham Earley, Kian Murphy, Ally Ni Chiarain, John Flynn, Ashley Xie, Harry Nagle
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: John (Jack Reynor) is a taxi driver in Dublin who lives with his mother Jean (Toni Collette), but they are poor and his father deserted the family a long time ago after his younger brother Kit (Harry Nagle) was born. He struggles to make ends meet, and his social life rests on hanging around with best friend Shane (Will Poulter), something of a rascal and constantly on the edge of falling into a life of crime, no matter that his own mother dotes on him and worries that he will take a seriously wrong turn soon. Not so Jean in regard to John, all she bothers about is where her next drink is coming from for she is an alcoholic and currently drinking herself into an early grave her son feels powerless to prevent...

Glassland was the second feature from writer and director Gerard Barrett after Pilgrim Hill, another tiny budget work that won acclaim in his native Ireland and managed to drum up support for this, including a cast who would raise its profile considerably. That said, this was still very much allied to the kitchen sink drama tradition no matter its more lyrical or mysterious moments, and that was always going to be a tough sell to audiences who would prefer their down at heel miseries supplied to them through soap operas or voyeuristic documentaries on television, so it wasn't exactly blockbuster material Barrett was offering. On the other hand, it was worth seeking out for a certain type of viewer.

That type being the sort who preferred to do a bit of work while watching their films and not be expected to sit back and have their entertainment spoonfed to them, not that this was a bad thing, sometimes you just want to escape the world for a while and movies are the ideal and legal way to do just that. If, however, you wanted to be reminded there was great suffering in the world, whether you could relate or not, then a gritty effort like this was ideal, though if you had no experience of trying, never mind succeeding, to help someone through an addiction then you may well have your motives called into question if you truly found ninety minutes in the company of John as he attempts to save his mother entertaining.

Of course, entertainment was perhaps not the point, if it was engrossing then that was fair enough, but every scene was steeped in the serious intent of the director, and certainly the cognoscenti would appreciate that sincerity even if the more casual viewer would find it a turn off. Not helping that was Barrett's tendency to leave out too much linking information, so that you would be getting used to one sequence when suddenly if you had allowed your attention to wander you may well be wondering what the current bit had to do with what you had recently been watching. The ending was particularly guilty of this, though it did sound a note of reconciliation it also seemed to be setting up a thread it had no time for.

If you could tolerate sitting through this only to end in, if not confusion (though that was possible), then at least a feeling of being left hanging just as things were taking a turn, then there were compensations. The fairly well-known cast of a couple of rising stars and more veteran talents eased the drama through its rougher patches, with Collette obviously on board to deliver a slightly overwritten monologue that she sold with ease, the whole pivotal part where we understood what had brought Jean and by extension her son to the dejection she had cursed the family with. Even that was a little pat, but it's true the dramatic events in one's life can have serious consequences that you may never get over, not that Barrett was copping out when John finally persuades Jean to get professional help for her condition before it kills her. Poulter demonstrated Collette's skill with accents too as the wayward buddy who finds a way out of a dead end, though this does leave John with apparently nobody to be friends with, which demonstrated the bittersweet in this occasional romanticism of melancholy.

[The Kaleidoscope DVD has a trailer and interviews with cast members as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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