Pilgrim Hill was no fluke. Glassland, Gerard Barrett's follow up to his micro-budgeted debut, is every bit as good as his first.
Jack Reynor is a young cab driver eking out a meagre living on the rougher streets of Dublin. With an older brother elsewhere and an alcoholic mother (Collette) flitting away whatever earnings he makes on booze, it's left to Reynor to care for Kit (Harry Nagle), a brother with Down's Syndrome. With pressure mounting to keep mum in a drying out facility Reynor is forced to find money from more nefarious ends...
As with Pilgrim Hill, Barrett shows that he has an eye for little but important details, like Reynor watering down the milk so there's enough for a bowl of cornflakes, or the hatchback door that needs to be propped open with a bar. But the details here aren't merely aesthetic. When Reynor wakes to find his mother missing, he checks the back garden before he checks the sitting room. This tiny moment gives the relationship a depth and a history, that he has found her outside before and more than once. Barrett extends this attention to detail to the environment the characters live in: The house, with its rotting windowsills, dirty curtains, sinks full of dishes, and its rips in the couch not only implies the dire financial straits mother and son are in, but also is a metaphor for the relationship itself.
Like his debut, which didn't hold back in its depiction of solitude on a secluded farm, Glassland can be brutally honest in its exploration of parental and social responsibility. In a disturbing but engrossing scene, Collette confesses that she never felt connected to Kit, that he was just something that came out of her and ripped her life apart; she even adds that the idea that he grew inside her makes her want to retch.
If Pilgrim Hill was unrelenting in its portrayal for grim reality Glassland, while difficult too, finds some charm to alleviate the dinginess. That comes in the shape of Reynor's friendship with Will Poulter. Delivering the laughs with his thick Dublin brogue, Poulter is a hoot but puts the jokes to one side to deliver one of the most memorable and moving scenes of the year. The entire cast is flawless, with Reynor's heartfelt plea to Collette outside the AA particularly a standout, but the Poulter-and-kid scene is unforgettable.
Make no bones about it - Gerard Barrett is a major talent.