Glass Man, The (2011)
Directed by Cristian Solimeno
For many of us, the prospect of joblessness and personal financial ruin is a terrifying one – made all the more threatening by its ever-looming, and very real, possibility. Amidst the wake of recent years’ worldwide economic crisis, so comes Cristian Solimeno’s topical psychological thriller The Glass Man.
Andy Nyman stands at the fore as mild-mannered businessman Martin Pyrite. Enjoying a moderately well-to-do middle class city lifestyle, he gets up for work every morning and tucks into a fresh breakfast provided by his beautiful pampered wife, Julie (Campbell), before setting off for the daily grind. What Julie doesn’t know, however, is that Martin lost his job months ago, and to avoid dealing with the shame of no longer being the provider to her, and the potential loss of everything he’s worked for, he has continued the façade on a daily basis while trying to reason with his ex-employer.
But with shady debts mounting up and any savings long gone, the net closes tighter on a desperate Martin, until one night a burly debt collector by the name of Pecco (Cosmo) comes calling. Taking pity on the docile and mistreated Martin, Pecco offers him a deal: Assist him with some business that his partner has dropped out of this evening, and he will consider Martin’s debt repaid. The catch is that Martin cannot ask what this particular business will entail – and he must accept or deny the offer there and then.
Of course, Martin accepts and soon finds himself transporting mysterious bags, digging holes in the forest while a shotgun-toting Pecco looks on, and slipping ever more rapidly into an inescapable mire of madness and murder. To expand any further on the machinations of The Glass Man’s narrative would likely serve to completely give the game away as, yes, unfortunately the entire plot hinges around a late-game twist – a specific plot device that, cinematically, is so horrendously overplayed, overwrought and over-utilized at this point that many will see it coming and likely spend the rest of the runtime wishing that the inevitable reveal simply won’t occur. A pity, then, as despite bringing nothing new to a particularly tired plot device, just about everything else about The Glass Man is absolutely stellar.
Respected genre actor Nyman (seen in Christopher Smith’s Severence, Black Death and most recently scaring up West End stages with Ghost Stories) brings the beleaguered Martin to life with stunning clarity, depicting an effortlessly sympathetic everyman who only wants what he is due and who, like all of us, is capable of making poor decisions while facing personal turmoil. Far too meek to ever truly stand up for himself, the journey through Martin’s gradual downfall – from the shifty reasoning behind the loss of his job and his desperate attempt to obtain answers and negotiate a replacement for his unreasonably poor employer’s reference, to a painfully realistic street mugging through sheer intimidation and his ultimate emotional collapse and outburst of truth to a wife too medicated to even hear him – is heartbreaking. The reason behind such effectiveness is Nyman himself, shouldering the first two acts of The Glass Man to create an involving, emotional, at times distressing but realistic and tense piece of storytelling that truthfully provokes the very real question of what you would do when faced with losing your very way of life. When everything begins to fall apart, elements of the twist are introduced, and as Martin’s behavior becomes more erratic and less convincing, it’s the script that fails – not the actor.
The rest of the cast are similarly excellent, especially Cosmo as the overbearing yet perfectly three-dimensional Pecco, and director Solimeno also busts his acting chops in a film-stealing extended cameo as Martin’s friend turned film star that just bursts with believable relationship dynamics and finely tuned humor. Behind the camera, he’s similarly impressive for a debut feature director. Obviously in tune with his performers, Solimeno also has a natural eye for city locations and a keen sense of pacing, both of which combine to create an effortlessly realistic atmosphere of creeping dread and inevitable suffering. With the pace of The Glass Man as placid as its lead character, it’s testament to the level of skill both behind and in front of the camera that it never actually becomes boring – merely predictable.
Passing judgement on The Glass Man is difficult, as on one hand we have an extremely successful, heartfelt and devastating piece of cinema sporting some of the best performances to grace the screen this year, while on the other it lets itself down so badly with the most basic of late-game devices that it seems to mar everything that has come before. Solimeno’s film, with all of the talent on display, deserves to be so much more than how it ends up – and it also carries a rather pervading sense of self-importance that constantly assures you that it will be. Unfortunately, that may just serve to bolster disappointment once the credits roll and leave an unduly poor taste in the mouth. Like a tiny nugget of poop discovered at the bottom of a Michelin starred meal.
3 1/2 out of 5