People will often resolutely set out to secure any treatment necessary to help their loved ones overcome an illness that’s threatening their lives. But the remedy they secure that’s commendably meant to help their relatives can unfortunately become more detrimental than beneficial to their health, particularly if it’s obtained immorally. That harrowing struggle is grippingly shown through the life of a young man, who’s so desperate to find a way to provide the right care for his mother, who’s grappling to overcome her alcoholism, that he turns to a criminal life that he knows is wrong, in the new drama, ‘Glassland.’ The film, which was shot in Dublin City and was written and directed by Gerard Barrett, is now playing in select American theaters and On Demand. It stars versatile Irish actor Jack Reynor, who powerfully portrays the protagonist as wanting to help his mother become healthy. But his decision to enter the criminal world to earn fast money to pay for her treatment ultimately pushes him and his relationships to the limits.

‘Glassland’ follows John (Reynor), a poor taxi driver who’s barely scraping by in his deteriorating home in a social housing suburb in Dublin that he shares with his alcoholic mother, Jean (Toni Collette). One morning when John returns home from one of his shifts, he find his mother unconscious from an alcohol overdose, which becomes an extremely dire situation, as it has happened before. After another night of binge drinking, doctors break the news to John that his mother won’t live much longer at the rate she’s going, but Jean violently rejects her son’s attempts to help her recover.

Jean is offered an opportunity to check into a treatment facility, but John doesn’t have the savings or insurance to pay for her costly care. So he reluctantly becomes tangled in the risky world of human trafficking in order to pay for his mother’s costly rehab at the private clinic. At the same time, he’s also bearing the responsibility for his younger brother, Kit (Harry Nagle), who’s living in a care facility with Down Syndrome. The only person John is able to rely on for emotional support is his friend Shane (Will Poulter), who’s contending with his own family problems and questioning of what he wants to do with the rest of his life. So John is subsequently faced with a life-changing task that may affect him and his family’s lives forever.

Reynor generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘Glassland’ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the actor discussed how he was immediately drawn to play John in the drama, as the story realistically showcases what addiction can do to a family, and the desperate measures he will take in order to help save his mother’s life. He also spoke about how he enjoyed working with the cast and crew on the film, including Collette, Poulter, Nagle and Barrett, as they connected with each other as they all determinedly strived to emphasize the struggles families contend with as they try to help someone they love overcome addiction.

ShockYa (SY): You play John, who lives in a south Dublin social housing suburb and makes out a meager living as a nocturnal taxi driver with his mother, in the new drama, ‘Glassland.’ What was it about the script, as well as the script overall, that drew you to take on the role?

Jack Reynor (JR): Well, I read the scrip in 2012. My first impression of it was that it really showcases what addiction can do to a family. It’s inherently a film about a guy who loves his mother, and wants the best for her. No matter how much she tortures him, caring for her just consumes his life. He does whatever he can to make sure that she’s okay, and remains committed to her. That’s the heart of the film, and really why I love it so much.

SY: Toni Collette plays Jack’s mother, Jean, who’s an unwavering alcoholic, in ‘Glassland.’ How did you build your connection with Toni as you began working together? Did you have any rehearsal time together, in order to build the characters’ strained mother-son relationship?

JR: It was fantastic to work with her. We only had her for five days, and we only had 16 shooting days all together. From the first time I met Toni, we had a really fantastic relationship with one another. We both really enjoyed the challenge of making this film. I think we both related to each other in a very profound way. I really had the best time with her. I would work with her again in a heartbeat.

She’s the most incredibly generous actress. The way she committed herself to the role was unlike anything I have ever seen from any actor. There wasn’t a moment where she had an easy scene, or a half-an-hour to take a break to rest. It was just constant punishment to go through, performance-wise, on this film. So I have the most admiration or her; she’s a phenomenal person.

SY: Once you were cast as Jack, what kind of research did you into alcoholism and social housing, in order to better understand, and connect with, his struggles? How did your research help you relate to, and understand, Jack?

JR: Well, I grew up in Ireland, and it’s a place that’s rampid with addiction. People are dealing with addictions to not only drugs and alcohol, but just about anything. It’s very common in our society to have an addictive personality. So in that sense, there wasn’t a huge amount of research that had to be done. I just had to watch what was happening around me, and allow myself to feel it.

I think what was more important than the research was the safety mechanism that I could put in place so that I could leave the role behind when I was finished filming. That way I was able to get out of the mental state that I went into when I was making the film. Leaving the role behind was the tough part.

SY: What was your experience of working with the film’s writer-director, Gerard Barrett, as well?

JR: It was fantastic. Gerard had seen one of my previous films, ‘What Richard Did,’ which he really responded to. I had seen ‘Pilgrim Hill’ (a 2013 drama that Barrett also wrote and directed), which is also a portrait of life in Ireland. I thought he was a fantastic director, and I was very keen to work with him. He trusted me a lot with the role of John in a lot of ways, so we really enjoyed collaborating. We’re very proud of the film that we made, and it’s a special film for us both. So I think we’ll probably make something together again in the future.

SY: You had your break out role in the 2012 Irish drama, ‘What Richard Did,’ which you just mentioned. How did shooting that film compare and contrast to filming ‘Glassland,’ particularly in exploring the social issues in Irish society?

JR: Well, in a way, they’re both very similar films. But ultimately, they’re two guys who come from opposite ends of the social spectrum. So it was an interesting challenge for me to go from playing someone who comes from an affluent society, doesn’t want for a whole lot and is the golden boy in his school, to a guy in his 20s who’s really struggling to make ends meet. He has to make a living for himself and his mother, while also trying to help her face her addiction, so that he can be free to live his own life.

So they’re two very different stories, but at the end of the day, they’re both very much Irish films. I worked with some of the same people on both movies. The two projects both had challenges in their own right, but they were both very rewarding films to make, and I’m very proud of them both. I’m very happy that the Irish audiences responded to them both so well and so graciously.

SY: With ‘Glassland’ and ‘What Richard Did’ both being set in Ireland, what was the experience of filming on location there, and capturing the authenticity of the neighbor’s social struggles on screen? How does shooting in Ireland compare and contrast to filming Hollywood movies?

JR: The most important thing for me is having diversity in my career, and being able to make really big and small films. I think both types of films attract audiences in different ways. I think it’s really important to reinvent yourself as an actor all the time. So that’s what I try to do; I don’t want to do the same thing twice. I think having diversity in your choices is the one thing that can keep your career as an actor alive.

SY: What was the experience of filming ‘Glassland’ independently over the course of three weeks? Did that process help you connect with Jack’s emotional struggles and determination to help Jean recover?

JR: Well, it is important to put yourself under stress and pressure, so that you can finish a film. This was certainly a case where that was helpful. Like I said, we only had 16 days to shoot the entire movie, and we had no other option but to really run it and gun it, and that’s what we did.

Gerard and I workshopped the film a lot before we shot it. We knew what we wanted out of the characters, and the general shape of the film. But ultimately, since we had time constraints and a limited budget, everyone had to fully commit, and pull their weight on the movie. That went for the crew, as well as the actors. Everyone was there for the same reason-we were interested in making a really great film. I think that you can see that the people who made the film really loved and cared about it.

SY: Besides caring for his mother, John also serves as a parental figure to his younger brother, Kit, who’s played by Harry Nagle. Do you feel John is determined to care for Kit, so that he doesn’t also have to have the same strained relationship with their mother?

JR: Working with Harry was great; he’s a wonderful young actor. He put a wonderfully strong performance into the film. I met him a couple of months before we started shooting, and we workshopped with him an awful lot. I spent a lot of time with him, which was great. I had an opportunity to hang out and do things with him, which meant that we had a really good relationship with each other when we started making the film. I think there’s a real purity to that kind of relationship.

There was nothing synthetic about his performance; everything you see from him is real. He shared his real emotions, and he was really wonderful to have around. He still texts me all of the time. He’s great; I’d like to see him do more work in the future.

SY: Besides trying to help his mother recover, John is also contending with his own isolation, as he’s shown to only have a connection with one friend, Shane, who’s played by Will Poulter. Why do you think it’s essential for Jack to depend on Shane for support, especially as he’s taking on more responsibility for caring for Jean?

JR: Will and I are actually good friends, and he’s a phenomenal actor and a lovely guy. I’m very proud of the scenes we shot together for the movie, and I know he is, too. He and I had an understanding before we started the film was that our relationship was going to bring a very special element to the film, in terms of levity.

(Shane) has a good relationship with his mother. He also has opportunities in front of him, as well as the ability to go away and make a life for himself somewhere else.

But John doesn’t have those opportunities. His relationship with his mother is the complete opposite from Shane’s relationship with his mother. I think that was very special in the film. It furthered the contrast between what John’s life is like, as compared to other people.

SY: With no savings or insurance, John is forced to offer his services to a petty criminal to help pay for his mother’s pricey recovery program. What was the process of showcasing his reluctant willingness to turn to crime to help pay for his mother’s help?

JR: That was an interesting element in the film. I think the idea behind it all was that we needed to see that John would go to any lengths for his mother. He would do whatever it takes to protect her; he would give his own life for her. He would even do something that he knew was wrong and morally questionable. I think that element was very important to the film.

I don’t know whether or it was entirely articulated. I think we wanted the audience to figure out part of the situation for themselves, as that wasn’t the most important thing in the film.

SY: You won a Special Jury Award for Acting at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, and the drama also played at such festivals as the San Francisco Irish Film Festival, Irish Film Festival Los Angeles, Irish Film Festival New York. What was your experience of bringing the drama to the different festivals, and sharing it with international audiences?

JR: Well, for me, having the Irish audience be able to see the film was the most important thing. Although the film is universally themed, it is about the Irish community. I think they responded positively to the film. They saw it as a portrait of some of the things that happen in our lives. They gave us an overwhelming response; people were really complimenting this movie. Like I said, I’m incredibly proud of the film, and am glad people are responding to it so well.

SY: Besides ‘Glassland,’ do you have any other projects lined up that you can discuss?

JR: Well, I filmed (the musical drama) ‘Sing Street,’ which premiered at Sundance last month to rave reviews, which was fantastic. It’s another Irish film that I’m incredibly proud to have been in. I also have the (action crime drama,) ‘Free Fire,’ which was written and directed by Ben Wheatley. It’s the ultimate gun fight movie, but it was also a lot of fun and dangerous.

I’m also in the Warner Bros. movie, ‘Jungle Book: Origins,’ which comes out next year. Andy Serkis is directing the film, and it’s incredible. I also have a role in director Jim Sheridan’s film, ‘The Secret Scripture,’ which is coming out this year. It’s another Irish film, and it also features Rooney Mara.

I’ll also be in (the biographical action thriller,) ‘HHhH,’ which is about Reinhard Heydrich, who’s being played by Jason Clarke. I’ll be playing Jozef Gabcik, and Jack O’Connell is portraying Jan Kubis. The movie was directed by French filmmaker Cédric Jimenez. I’m really really excited about the movie, and I think it’s going to be very strong.

Interview: Jack Reynor Talks Glassland (Exclusive)

Written by: Karen Benardello

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *