The Glass Castle is a movie based on a memoir by Jeannette Walls. Walls (Brie Larson) and her three siblings (as adults, the characters are played by Sarah Snook, Josh Caras, and Brigette Lundy-Paine) have dysfunctional parents (Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts) who refuse to face reality. The children spend their childhood jumping from home to home, running from cops and debt, and never settling into a stable life.
I must have been living under a rock, because I had never heard of The Glass Castle until recently. The movie arrived on Netflix in the last few months, and it is a must-see. I wish I had gotten the chance to read the book before I watched the movie because reading it changed the film a little bit for me, but the film is very well done. The cast suits the movie perfectly; Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson in particular give outstanding performances. Netflix labels the movie as a drama, but within the drama there are great levels of suspense and fear because viewers never know how long the feel-good moments in the movie will last. The story is unpredictable, complicated, and distressing. One of the charms of The Glass Castle is the flashback theme that it has. Larson plays the grown-up Walls, who lives in the city and has done well for herself despite her hardships growing up. The flashbacks show how all of the traumas that she faced are still with her and weigh down on her current life. I find the director (Destin Daniel Cretton) gracefully showed that even if a person can achieve the difficult task of arising from poverty into a sustainable life, the adversities do not and will not simply disappear.
The parts where the family struggle the most are gut wrenching. In all honesty, the film is hard to watch in some parts, but only because it gives a real look into what poverty in America can look like and the living conditions that some children are forced to grow up in. The entire cast of the movie were very convincing with the emotions they portrayed. Harrelson was particularly frightening in scenes where the father, Rex, is trying to fight his alcoholism to fulfill his daughter’s wish. All of the children who played the younger versions of the characters were equally as talented as their adult counterparts.
IMDb gives the movie a 7.2/10, and after reading the book I can understand some of the criticisms that other readers have had. The movie, while amazing, only scratched the surface of how rough life got for the Walls children. There were important events that were missed or brushed over. However, the end of the movie does a nice job touching on some more nostalgic moments from the book. Missing some details is inevitable when putting a book into a movie, especially one as intense as The Glass Castle. Overall, I believe the directors and cast did an amazing job of telling Jeanette Walls’ story; I could not ask for much more from the film. The Glass Castle is bittersweet and difficult to watch, but it truly leaves a person with a grateful view on life.