Sunday, March 6, 2016

Glassland [2014]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Irish Times (3 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing listing

Irish Times (D. Clarke) review
Eye For Film (A. Wilkinson) review
Sight & Sound (T. Johnston) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review
The Hollywood Reporter (B. van Hoiej) review
Variety (P. DeBruge) review

Glassland [2014] [IMDb] [CEu] (written and directed by Gerard Barrett [IMDb] [CEu]) would seem a rather straight-forward if then certainly poignant even urgent contemporary FAMILY DRAMA from IRELAND that played recently at the 19th (2016) Chicago European Union Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago.

John (played by Jack Reynor [IMDb]) is a Dubliner entering his mid-twenties who, driving the taxi left to him by his father (deceased), finds himself the only one in his family with a job.  He has a younger brother who's institutionalized in what in the states we'd call in the States a "moderate care" /  "assisted living facility" with  Downs Sydrome, and his mother, on public assistance, is an alcoholic.

The film is a reminder that alcoholism is a progressive rather than simply chronic disease, it isn't simply a "burden" or "annoyance" ... it does lead to ever increasing problems / difficulties and eventually to death.

So this is where John finds himself.  While there is stability in other parts of his life -- he's gotten pretty good at being a taxi driver, he's been a pretty good / responsible son and brother, and even if it may be mildly frustrating to him that his best friend's life (friend played by Will Poulter) is still _unfinished_ and, indeed, _unfolding_ (while John's appears to have hit the point of "as good as it gets" -- in his early mid twenties ...) -- the situation with John's mother is clearly beginning to undermine that: John comes home one afternoon and finds her passed-out barely breathing on her bed.  After calling the paramedics who take her quickly to the hospital where they revive her, he's told by the attending physician that her liver function is fast approaching a point that she's going to need a liver transplant.  But how does one give a liver transplant to someone who's clearly an alcoholic and not doing much about it?  There are only so many donated organs to go around ...

So John has to famously convince his mother, who typically of an alcoholic doesn't want treatment, to get it.  And even after he does, he's told by the counselor, Jim (played excellently by Michael Smiley) that all his facility can provide is 8 days of detox and it's clear that his mother (like most of the other patients at the facility) really need much more.

Yet, putting ma' into a rehab facility for a month or two will cost money, and as is a common theme in _a lot_ of contemporary European "small indie films" both money (on the part of the family, again John's the only one with a job ...) and public funds are not exactly available.

So having set-up the situation, the rest of the film is about the question: What would you do / to what lengths would you go to help a loved one who does need your help?  And remember here, ma' here is not necessarily the most pleasant person to be around ... but she is ... ma'.

It really is an excellent, thought provoking / soul searching film... and lest too many Readers here worry, it does have a more-or-less objectively happy ending at the end.

As something of interesting afterthought / addendum, I would note here a fairly interesting "twist" to the (setup of the) story:  A fairly important character in this story is "Jim" who's presented as a "counselor."  Perhaps in generations past, in an Irish movie, he would have been presented as a Priest.  Now (at minimum) he's "dressed in civilian clothes," and there is no mention of any other duties.  So the audience is invited to understand him as simply a _counselor_, though certainly a very good / competent and empathetic one.

All across Europe and indeed the "Western / Northern world" there is a "de-sacralization" going on.  Someone like me may not be "all that excited about it."  But it is happening. 

WHAT I FIND NICE HERE is that the roles previously taken by clergy, here to be a counselor / manager of a "alcoholic rehab center", CONTINUE.  For whether we (clergy) remain or not, these jobs / services will need to be provided because people do / will continue to need them.

In any case, this is a quite poignant and well crafted story, perhaps "small in scope" but certainly one that "hits home."

So good job, folks, very good job!

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