When introduced to Toni Collette’s Jean, in Gerard Barrett’s sophomore endeavour Glassland, she’s lying on her back, with day old vomit stuck to her chin. It’s not the first time we’ve met a character this talented Aussie actress has played in such a state, close to death and with little dignity to boot. But unlike the comedically inclined About a Boy, or even A Long Way Down for that matter, this is a harsh, unrelenting affair that offers little respite to the viewer.

Jean is discovered lying comatose in her bed by her downtrodden son, John (Jack Reynor). The cab driver is desperately trying to make ends meet for his family, but her alcohol addiction is starting to take its toll, and John knows that if his mother doesn’t change her ways soon, she won’t be around for much longer. There does appear to be light at the end of tunnel however, when he meets social worker Jim (Michael Smiley), who is intent on helping this young boy and his destructive parent.

Having deviated into the world of the Hollywood blockbuster with a turn in Transformers: Age of Extinction (fair enough, we’ve all got bills to pay) – it’s relieving to see Reynor back in a more gritty, independent movie of this ilk – as it’s what brought him to our attention after all, with his compelling lead performance in What Richard Did. Similarly, Glassland is very much a candid study of this one man – as Barrett takes an almost voyeuristic look at his protagonist, as we revel in the mundane, watching him eat cereal, brush his teeth. Nothing of note as such, but helps in crafting this character and allowing the audience to understand him and form a bond, which is essential. Both Reynor and Collette are nothing short of outstanding in this picture, it’s just a shame we don’t see enough of Smiley or Will Poulter, confined to mere supporting roles in this instance, with not a great deal to do.

The uncompromising gloominess does feel somewhat contrived in parts too, though to avoid feeling cliched, the implementation of the small subtleties in life and naturalistic elements ensure we’re able to believe in this tale, and therefore abide by the melodrama that ensues. Barrett can be accused of losing sight of the more nuanced, intimate aspects to this narrative however, deviating away from the crux of this story and dipping his toes in other big themes, perhaps taking on just a little too much, carelessly ignoring the notion that sometimes less can be so much more. Yet there remains a suspenseful edge to this piece, as we anticipate Jean either coming out of this ordeal reformed, or drinking herself to death – while John’s persistent tapping on surfaces with his fingers adds to the subtly implemented tension that exists.

Though flawed, Glassland remains an absorbing drama that deals with severe themes in an intriguing manner. Alcoholism, and how that affects the victim’s offspring, is not something we see explored too often in cinema, and yet remains such a prevalent issue in society. Barrett has dealt with this premise in a unique way, while ensuring it’s engaging in its execution – a talent to look out for, certainly.