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  • 3.5 out of 5

The Glass Castle - simple, effective story-telling

I watched my wife, Ciara, cry her way through Jeanette Walls' New York Times best-selling biography, The Glass Castle. I initially dismissed the book as chick-lit but was sufficiently intrigued by the trailer to want to see this movie. To be honest it was less the trailer and more the realisation that Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson were the stars. I'm fans of both actors and was curious. I'm glad I was.

The story is that of a young girl who comes of age in a dysfunctional family of nonconformist nomads with a mother (Naomi Watts) who's an eccentric artist and an alcoholic father (Harrelson) who stirs their children's imagination with hope as a distraction to their poverty. The focus of this hope is the titular glass castle, which is a folly.

I came to this film not knowing it was a biography and it was only during the end credits, where the real-life characters are shown, that I realised the events I had been watching was true. In a cinema schedule of comic book adaptations, re-telling of old tales, sequels and prequels, The Glass Castle is a refreshing piece of work. It joins this summer's stand-out mainstream films: Dunkirk, Baby Driver and Detroit as unique creations.

At times painful and uplifting, the film is replete with well-developed characters and a story that draws one in. We feel the pain, the anguish, the hope, the heart-break, the cruelty, the despair and the love present in this family. The story is told from the perspective of the author, Jeanette (Brie Larson) in flashbacks to her childhood from where she is today, engaged to a successful New York financier. Larson is spot on. Her portrayal captures the conflict she experiences and the dyadic love/hate relationship she has with her father. Harrelson will surely get an Oscar nomination for the life he breathes into the father. He is both villain and hero in his children's eyes.

This is family life, a slice of a particular family's life. The story-telling, the acting are all top-notch. I have read some indifferent reviews. For me the film is worth a second viewing, if only to dig deeper into the layers of the characters and their shared story.

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton who also directed the critically acclaimed Short Term 12, this is a fine addition to his resumé and marks him out as a director to keep an eye on.

Definitely worth a look. Bring tissues.

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