The toast of 2011′s Frightfest thus far and certainly a classier-than-average effort for a horror film festival of any sort, Cristian Solimeno’s The Glass Man concluded amid a round of applause last night in Leicester Square’s jam-packed Empire cinema. Distinguished by its reliance on an outstanding performance from up-and-comer Andy Nyman (best known for small comic bit-parts in Brit productions like Death at a Funeral and Severance), this is one film well-conceived enough that it need not rely on scare tactics and buckets of blood to keep you intrigued; it is a timely, thoughtful and ultimately rather disturbing drama which delivers a warning message of sorts to the insulated, prevailing middle class.
Martin (Nyman) has just lost his job, though hasn’t yet conveyed that information to his wife, Julie (Neve Campell), and continues with the routine of getting dressed and driving to work every day. One day, however, with his wife fast asleep upstairs following a colossal argument, an imposing debt collector named Pecco (James Cosmo) arrives at his front door, offering Martin an ultimatum; to either allow him to repossess the owed monies in goods from the house, or to help him take care of some business no questions asked. Backed into a corner, Martin ventures out into the night with Pecco to find out what must be done…
Truly a film of three acts, The Glass Man begins as a kitchen-sink slice of reality, with mounting bills turning a loving marriage into a crumbling one. This is cleverly intercut with a slyly satirical tone, sending up indefatigable, fastidious middle class pride, as Martin, despite financial ruin, continues to try and buy flowers for his wife, eat expensive ice cream and collect books that he’ll never read. The second act enters eerie, near-Lynchian territory once Pecco comes a-knocking, before it leaps fully off the deep-end – in the best way possible – into a full-tilt psycho noir.
Clever and unexpectedly affecting, The Glass Man details dangerous middle-class arrogance with a sharp eye, and in the wake of the worldwide economic downturn, it remains a potent metaphor right up to its shocking conclusion. Packed with twists which build upon other twists, the film is a transformative one, turning from a straight-faced comic drama into a tense thriller while never displaying a shrewdness of tone, thanks to the consistency of its darkly satirical elements and a potentially star-making turn from Andy Nyman, who recognises the opportunity before him and boldly grabs it with both hands.
Solimeno, who also plays a small part as Martin’s mega-rich film star friend, directs with long, deliberate takes which only enhance the sense of immersion created by Nyman’s stellar performance; one scene, in which Martin is moved on by a parking attendant while waiting for Pecco, and must drive around the block, is both thrillingly tense and an impressive technical feat, with Nyman spending several minutes apparently actually navigating London traffic while acting all at once. Though Nyman is clearly the star of the show, we shouldn’t forget the solid work by the supporting players; Neve Campbell flaunts an impressive and mostly flawless English accent, while James Cosmo is great fun as the film’s most hilarious and honest component, the mysterious Pecco.
A riveting hybrid of Falling Down and After Hours, The Glass Man’s success rests on an impeccable central performance from Andy Nyman.
The Glass Man currently has no U.K. release date set.