I love that feeling when you experience a great film that seems to have come out of nowhere. I knew absolutely nothing about Glasshouse until I sat down to watch it other than it was a film set after an apocalyptic event. What I was expecting was something like Mad Max or The Hunger Games, what I wasn’t expecting was a beautiful film that looked more at human emotion and instinct than it did action pieces.
Directed by Kelsey Egan (The Bull) Glasshouse takes its name from house of glass that a family led by an ageing mother (Adrienne Pearce – The Bone Snatcher) call home after an event called The Shred swept across the Earth wiping people’s memory. Worried that the toxin is still in the air the family won’t venture outside unless wearing a mask.
For the most part the family, which includes sisters Bea (Jessica Alexander – Get Even), Evie (Anja Taljaard – Double Echo) and Daisy (newcomer Kitty Harris) have lived a good life happily growing plants but still pining for their brother who is out in the wilderness. But things have taken a bad turn as the family worry about the fact that their autistic brother, Gabe (Brent Vermeulen – Griekwastad) is showing signs of violence as he gets older. However Bea and Evie convince their mother that they are more than equipped to look after him.
Things take an even bigger turn when Bea rescues an injured, nameless man (Hilton Pelser – The Kissing Booth) whom she finds on the perimeter of their land. Gabe takes an instant dislike to the man while Bea finds herself drawn to him. Could he be their brother or is he someone that means harm to a family that have found their paradise.
I found there is a true beauty to this film. There is a distinct alternative ‘period-feel’ to the film that it is reminiscent of Alfonso Cuaron’s Great Expectations. The plants and artwork inside the glass-house allow for some beautiful shots that have been captured by cinematographer Justus de Jager (The Lullaby) which is a stark opposite to what is often happening in those scenes – including violence between Gabe and The Stranger.
That beauty is also a contrast to the violence that occurs throughout the film that the family basically says is needed to protect their property. It is not uncommon for a shot to feature the beauty of the garden and then come to rest on hacked up body of someone whom Bea or Evie have caught trying to break in. That same beauty also distracts the audience from a family that despite saying they are so loving are more than willing to chain their autistic brother to a bed if they feel he may be a danger to them or himself.
I found this to be a film that takes the audience on an emotional roller-coaster given that there is almost a sense of madness to the world and the ‘paradise’ that the family live in. At times I found myself asking whether there was really an apocalyptic event or whether or not this was just simply a way for Mother to keep her family safe. That element plus the fact you never really know who you can trust in this family makes me a captivating type of suspense that is almost unrelenting throughout the entire film.
That suspense rises even further with the arrival of The Stranger. Early on after his arrival you are not sure whether he is a danger to the family or whether the two teenagers are going to start an almost Nurse Ratchet style relationship with him.
Throughout this film though I was captivated by the performance of the young cast. Jessica Alexander and ANja Taljaard are brilliant with sultry and emotional performances while Brent Vermeulen is sensational as the troubled Gabe. Many of his scenes would have been quite difficult to have pulled off and he deserves an unending amount of credit.
Glasshouse is a film full of emotion that I found to keep me completely on edge throughout. At times harsh, at times erotic the one thing Glasshouse certainly wasn’t was disappointing. This was a brilliant piece of cinema from a director that I cannot wait to see more from.