Being faced with hard decisions that affect the outcome of multiple people’s lives can be rough on anyone. Addiction is a tough issue to deal with, whether in real life or in a fictitious story and “Glassland” is able to handle it in a way that is sympathetic but toxic at the same time.

Jack Reynor plays John, a Dublin taxi driver who’s tasked himself with taking care of his alcoholic mother, Jean (Toni Collette). He loves her hopelessly and in order for her to save her liver and her life, John has to make hard decisions that aren’t exactly accepted by his mother. She’s happy the way she is and doesn’t need his help, but John sees the entire situation differently, trying to help her get clean. In trying to pay for her medical bills after sending her to an expensive rehab facility, John finds himself in a situation where he’s in the midst of human trafficking. Does helping his mother mean its ok for him to help ruin others’ lives? Do the ends justify the means?

Writer and director Gerard Barrett painstakingly delivers a morally ambiguous story about doing questionable things in the midst of desperation. “Glassland” is somber, but devastating in its emotional intensity. The core storyline is strong and paints an empathetic picture of an average man struggling with his mom’s choices and his dedication to helping her get better. There is no black and white to this story and although John does some questionable things (without knowing the full extent of his actions and the affect they have on others), he does them from a place of love for his mother.

Jack Reynor gives a superb performance in a difficult role. His character is torn between two things and his journey is a bit heartbreaking and not clear cut, which makes for some great character moments. Toni Collette has always been a strong actress and continues to prove so here. Collette’s character is both sympathetic and a bit selfish and demeaning in many ways. Still, when she shares the screen with Reynor, there’s a ton of chemistry and their interactions make for some of the most heart-wrenching scenes.

While Barrett’s screenplay is strong, the human trafficking aspect of the situation isn’t nearly as well-developed. It presents some moral ambiguity throughout and reaches a climax, but one that isn’t very satisfying if compared to the relationship between mother and son; a relationship that helps lift the film greatly and to soaring heights in its emotional richness. If not for it and the chemistry between the lead actors, “Glassland” may have drowned in its dark themes and story.

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Good

"Glassland" boasts a strong lead cast who help lift the film greatly and to soaring heights in its emotional richness. If not for this, it may have drowned in its dark themes and story.

3star

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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