Dystopian fiction is a fertile ground to let the imagination of filmmakers fly free. In this film we once more learn that the world has ended up broken and a small family has managed to seclude themselves in their own little paradise, surviving despite all odds. This one was close to the top of my list when films were announced and I’m glad I got to see it. As all stories go, it’s not about what the world has become but more how humans remain the same and how emotions will always get the better of them.
Glasshouse (2021) is directed by Kelsey Egan who wrote the screenplay with Emma Lungiswa De Wet. Diligent sisters Bee (Jessica Alexander), Evie (Anja Taljaard) and youngest Daisy (Kitty Harris) lived in a sealed up greenhouse. They mind the gardens, harvest the crops and kill any strangers that come nearby under the watchful eye of Mother (Adrienne Pearce), who has instituted rituals they must perform to keep their family history. They must also take care their affected brother Gabe (Brent Vermuelen) who was exposed to the airborne toxin that exist outside known only as the Shred. The Shred takes away your memories, and it has left the world a blank slate. One day, Bee decides to spare the life of a stranger (Hilton Perser) and the delicate balance that exists will be affected.
This movie is really striking in rich cinematographic visuals and the world building is carefully constructed just so that you feel part of a bigger world. Yet past that what we get is well-developed characters each with their own agenda. Bee is willing to accept the stranger as her missing brother Luca. Evie blames herself for not being watchful over Gabe which caused him to be exposed. Gabe has undeniable feelings for Evie. Daisy absorbs all knowledge as a sponge and knows every ritual and every song that Mother teaches them. But with the stranger inside the glasshouse, passions will flare, hearts will be broken and life will undoubtedly change.
The performances are really what sells this film. In a sense, it’s almost a soap opera set in a post-apocalyptic setting, but I did the way it wraps up nicely. I would have liked to go deeper into the memory exploration, but it was still a decently executed idea. In the resolution I appreciated that rather than try to preserve the original dynamic or go for a sense of revenge, justice or final confrontation between good and evil, it just goes with a grey ending in which new characters take on old roles in this micro-universe of a society that tries to endure. I found it immensely satisfying to confirm what I suspected from the start. No, there is no big reveals. Don’t expect any twists.
Highly recommended with reservations. This is a movie to experience on all senses and it can feel like both a very small set and incredible feat of world-building prowess. The elements of romance and betrayal added sometimes work and sometimes fall a little flat. It’s never spectacular or loud, nor it aims to create any special-effects heavy visuals which might satisfy some but frustrate others. But as it is, it feels easy and natural to accept without trying to push forward any agenda. It’s almost like the natural way of a world that lives without memory. Definitely one to watch and remember.
That will do for now.