FILM REVIEW | Glassland

When John is not goofing off with his best friend Shane, he is driving his taxi around some of the seedier downtrodden neighbourhoods on the fringes of Dublin looking for fares. ★★★★

Pickings are slim and he pleads with his boss to give him more shifts to make ends meet. He needs the money to support himself and Jean his alcoholic mother who seems determined to drink herself to an early grave.

On the rare times she is sober she is vivacious and funny, but when she is wasted, Jean changes into a mean and nasty drunk. So much so that John videos one of her drink-fuelled tirades to play it back to show her what she turns into. Coming home to find her passed out is a regular occurrence, but on this occasion when he discovers her lying lifeless in a pool of her vomit he rushes her to the hospital ER. The doctor breaks the news that Jean desperate needs a new kidney, but if she doesn’t get her drinking in check immediately, she probably won’t last long enough to even have a transplant.

If that is not enough for John to deal with, he also has to take sole responsibility for his younger sibling Kit who has Down’s syndrome, as Jean refuses to even acknowledge his very existence, let alone attend his 18th birthday. He does however finally manage to get Jean to an AA meeting but he discovers what she really needs is a proper detox programme that will cost £8000. No amount of driving hookers around looking for their ‘johns’ in his cab will raise an amount as large as this, so he is forced to borrow it from an unlikely source.

He is actually handed the money by a person on a horse who passes him a tin full of money. We find later that the price he will have to pay for this is something to do with the activities of the criminal clique who lent it to him, but what this actually is as clear as mud and is open to wild guesswork. There is a clue in the naked dead woman he discovers in the bath in a deserted country house he has been sent too, but we are never sure why.

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Saying that this powerful Irish kitchen-sink drama is completely gripping from the word go. It has an impressive performance from Irish actor Jack Reynor as John that got him a Best Acting Award at Sundance earlier this year. Playing his mother quite superbly is Toni Collete who is pitch perfect as a deeply unhappy woman who seems almost happy to drink herself into oblivion. A nod to Harry Nagle a young actor for his bravado ad Kit.

Confusing but quite compelling.

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