Complete A-Z list

Glass Castle, The


Stars: Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts, Max Greenfield, Sarah Snook, Robin Bartlett, Ella Anderson, Chandler Head, Josh Caras, Shree Grace Crooks, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Charlie Shotwell, Iain Armitage, Sadie Sink, Olivia Kate Rice, Eden Grace Redfield, Joe Pingue, A.J. Henderson, Dominic Bogart

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

While The Glass Castle might suggest yet one more extraordinary created-by-special-effects futuristic building decorating the visually fascinating but storyline light Blade Runner 2049, it's actually the title of New York magazine gossip columnist Jeanette Walls' best-selling memoir about her scarily dysfunctional upbringing as one of four siblings who learn the hard way while growing up in West Virginia how to survive their brilliant but self-destructive alcoholic father, uniquely portrayed by Harrelson.

The line 'We were never a family, we were a nightmare' vividly sums up a 'true' story which, despite screenwriter Cretton's sometimes melodramatically over-done direction that veers towards silent-film-style melodrama, is never dull and decorated with some memorable key performances

Larson scores strongly as Jeanette who survives a nomadic childhood (her father’s frequent job losses resulted in the family forced to lead a nomadic life as they move from town to town so Harrelson can try to find work) while their eccentric artist mother – a creepy turn by Watts – turns out to be of little solace either…

Cretton’s decision to dart back and forth in time from Larson’s nightmare childhood to 1969 doesn't always give the narrative the dramatic power it deserves. Fortunately, key characterisations keep you watching.

Harrelson, in particular, is unforgettable, creating a mesmerizingly melodramatic character who, while credible as an intellectual also at times comes across like a contemporary riff on L'iL Abner ('When it comes to my family, let me do the lying') on the rampage in Darkest Virginia. And could he be referring to his director, stating 'If you can convince yourself, you can convince them too'?

He convinced me with what could end up possibly being remembered as career-best performance.

Alan Frank

USA 2017. UK Distributor: LionsGate. Colour by deluxe.
126 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 22 Oct 2017