The bottom of the bottle.
Perhaps it’s due to the recession that Ireland is producing a lot of austere dramas at the moment but the economy’s loss is cinema’s gain. In just his second feature as writer/director, Gerard Barrett has crafted a clear-eyed look at alcoholism, thwarted hopes and the ruts in which we get stuck.With its unexplained title, downbeat subject matter and deliberate pacing, it’s not exactly Friday night fodder but it’s absorbing all the same.
Star-in-the-making Jack Reynor (of the similarly stark What Richard Did) plays John, a young Dubliner trying to keep things together as mother Jean (Toni Collette) falls apart. He works nights for a taxi firm to get by, hangs out with feckless friend Shane (Will Poulter) and visits little brother Kit (Harry Nagle) at a children’s home; she gets drunk and passes out in the porch.
For Kit’s birthday, John drives him in endless donuts round the car park; “I’m just spinning my wheels,” he tells Jean, at the end of his tether. “Every day’s the same.” Something’s got to give, and does, but mostly Barrett keeps things low-key, the seismic shifts playing out in the characters’ eyes. There’s minimal action and just two pieces of music, leaving us to focus on what amounts to a modest masterclass of screen acting.
Poulter is funny and believably boy-next-door, his accent flawless; Michael Smiley brings hard-won compassion as an alcohol counsellor and Collette gives one of the best performances of her career. But this is Reynor’s film and he holds the screen like a pro – always thinking, tapping, twitching with silent fury. John’s a good guy but he looks like he wants to kill someone. That no such eruptions occur makes Glassland’s power all the more remarkable.