Sombre enough to explain its lack of commercial success, this drama deserves notice for 

the quality shown by its exceptional cast.



Jack Reynor

This work, a second feature by the Irish writer/director Gerard Bassett, is set in Dublin in the present day and it centres on the relationship of a mother and son. The latter is John (Jack Reynor), a devoted youth who, still living with his mother, dedicates himself to looking after her. The burden falls on him since there is no father to whom he can turn and his younger brother (Harry Nagle) has Down's Syndrome and is in a home. But what makes John's situation truly desperate is that his mother, Jean, is an alcoholic prone to wandering off and at other times when still to be found at home she is lying there having passed out in her own vomit.


If this is a piece of miserabilism to be thought of alongside Gary Oldman's Nil by Mouth (1997) and Paddy Considine's Tyrannosaur (2011), the subsidiary elements present only add to that since they do nothing to lighten the tone. John's best friend, Shane (Will Poulter), is irresponsible and planning to get away from Ireland despite having made his girlfriend pregnant and John himself in seeking to make a living as a taxi driver finds himself increasingly drawn into dubious work when hired by criminals. But it is the central mother/son situation that really counts here.


Given Jean's alcoholism, this is a tale which in realistic terms seems to demand a wholly down-beat ending although that would doubtless feel too depressing. In trying to side step, Barrett supplies an unexpected moral resolution that leaves rather too many questions in its wake to satisfy fully. So Glassland is not a masterpiece, but it is a striking work admirably acted with Reynor confirming again his high standing among our young actors. But nevertheless the towering performance here is that of Toni Collette as the mother. Her portrayal is unsparing but never melodramatic and wholly truthful, not least in a key scene which is in effect a long monologue which helps us to understand Jean's fall into her present situation. Toni Collette is an actress who has often impressed but I don't believe that she has done anything better than this. 




Cast: Jack Reynor, Toni Collette, Will Poulter, Michael Smiley, Harry Nagle.

Dir Gerard Barrett, Pro Ed Guiney and Juliette Bonass, Screenplay Gerard Barrett, Ph Piers McGrail, Pro Des Stephanie Clerkin, Ed Nathan Nugent, Costumes Leonie Prendergast.


Element Pictures/Nine Entertainment/Bord Scannán na hÉireann/The Irish Film Board-Element Pictures Distribution.
93 mins. Ireland/UK. 2014. Rel: 17 April 2015. Cert. 15.