Belfast Telegraph

The Glass Castle: Shattering story of family life

The Glass Castle (12A) 123 mins

By Damon Smith

Self-destructive bohemian parents nurture their children with cruelty and cold comfort in The Glass Castle.

Adapted from Jeannette Walls' memoir, director Destin Daniel Cretton's uneven picture asks us to believe that formative years marked by abandonment and rejection could inspire four siblings to discover the inner strength and resilience that will stand them in good stead for the future.

It's a harsh lesson in self-preservation, delivered with gusto by an impressive ensemble cast led by Oscar winner Brie Larson.

Jeannette Walls (Larson) bears her wounds with stoicism as she celebrates her engagement to nice guy financier David (Max Greenfield). She eventually breaks the happy news to her father Rex (Woody Harrelson) and mother Rose Mary (Naomi Watts), who raised Jeanette and her three siblings in poverty and chaos.

Their refusal to share Jeanette's joy catalyses a series of anguished flashbacks that illuminate the destruction wrought by Rex and Rose Mary, like when the very young Jeanette (Chandler Head) sets her dress alight on the kitchen stove because her mother was too preoccupied to cook hot dogs for lunch.

Rex sneaks his badly burned daughter out of hospital and flees into the desert with his rag-tag brood.

Despite her horrific injuries, Jeanette remains devoted to the patriarch. As she grows (now played by Ella Anderson), Jeanette clings onto Rex's dreams until she can delude herself no longer.

The Glass Castle threatens to shatter before the end of a plodding two hours, but the cast provide sufficient glue to hold Cretton's picture together.

Three stars

Sparks fly on musical highway

On The Road (15) 121mins

Documentary fact and romantic fiction come together in sweet harmony in writer-director Michael Winterbottom's hybrid road movie. The majority of his film is a behind-the-scenes portrait of London-based alternative rock band Wolf Alice as they tour the UK and Ireland.

Cameras follow the four-piece - comprising Joel Amey, Theo Ellis, Joff Oddie and Ellie Rowsell - as they perform live, court the Press to promote the tour and undertake other marketing duties.

Caught in this real-life whirlwind are media manager Estelle (Leah Harvey) and Scottish roadie Joe (James McArdle).

Sparks of attraction fly between these two members of backstage crew and their relationship deepens as the band criss-crosses England, Scotland and Wales, providing a haunting soundtrack to Estelle and Joe's burgeoning relationship.

Three stars

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