Stoning their own Glass Castle

The Glass Castle follows the misadventures of a dysfunctional family. Picture: Jake Giles Netter

The Glass Castle follows the misadventures of a dysfunctional family. Picture: Jake Giles Netter

Published Sep 8, 2017


People in glass castles have the right to stone their own homes in order to be free. That is the overarching message of The Glass Castle. Based on a 2005 memoir of the same title written by Jeanette Walls, this film is about a dysfunctional family and what happens to it when some people fight to change and others fight for the opposite.

Predictably, critics who adore the book are not entirely happy with the film. Oviaaas. 

But whether it’s The Hunger Games or even We Need To Talk About Kevin, it’s not always easy to please the readers, even though the film was made for a wider audience. So if you read and loved The Glass Castle, go with this in mind: the word “based” in “based on a book” is there for a reason.

Moving on.

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The viewer is primarily told the story from the gaze of Jeanette as a toddler, as a tween, as a teen and as a newly-engaged young woman. From a very early age, it is clear that her family is different.

Firstly, she and her three siblings are home schooled (read: their mom plies them with books and calls it a day).

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Secondly, her mom, Rose Mary Walls (brilliantly portrayed by Naomi Watts), is an artist who believes painting is more important than feeding her starving children.

Her father, Rex Walls (how come Woody Harrelson doesn’t have all the Oscars yet?), is an eccentric manchild who can never keep a job but is intent on allowing his kids to experience a blissful freedom that he believes society’s rules stifle.

On paper, this sounds like the kind of parenting we should all be wagging a finger at. And sometimes, it is. But the way that director Destin Daniel Cretton paints scenes, where you just can’t help but see the good that a well-meaning but cray-cray parent is trying to do, humanises them.

There is a particularly tearjerking scene, when Rex and the youngest, Jeanette (played by the ultra-cute Chandler Head) are standing fireside - because the parents have decided the family must camp under the stars, because they are homeless - and Rex assures Jeanette that she has a fire in her belly that can’t be tamed.

A lot of the film takes place in 1989, and Jeanette is coolly embodied by Brie Larson, so it’s nice to go back to that fashion, but it’s bigger than just clothes or the beautiful landscape shots that link scenes.

It’s about drawing lines between blood and water. It’s about blaming your parents for the bad as well as the good that is in your life. It’s about recognising that we are infallible.



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