What You Need To Know:
In THE GLASS CASTLE, the cast does an exceptional job of conveying the highs and the lows, the beauty and the pain of this real-life story. However, the movie overall is very dark and has limited moments of redemptive value. Due to the humanistic worldview, depictions of abuse, and the profuse amount of language and blasphemy, this movie warrants extreme caution.
(HH, B, LLL, VV, SS, N, AAA, DD, MM) Strong humanist worldview with themes of evolution, atheism, individualism, and existentialism emphasized; mild depiction of biblical moral values including love, forgiveness, compassion, the value of family; very strong language with 16 profanities and 38 obscenities; strong violence with a girl catching on fire and sustaining extensive torso burn wounds, adults strike children in the face several times, a girl sews up a gash on her father’s arm, a man punches another man in the face, a man throws a chair through a window, a man dangles a woman outside an upper story window; strong sexual content with several couples shown kissing, one couple is shown making out on a bed, an engaged couple is shown living together, a woman is referred to as a “castrated whore”, one case of sexual innuendo, an older woman is caught trying to grope her grandson, a man is implied to have been sexually abused as a child, a man gropes a woman and forces her onto a bed; mild nudity with a man shown shirtless in a bathing suit, a woman partially removes her dress, revealing her torso and her bra; very strong substance abuse with men shown drinking strong liquor throughout, a man is an alcoholic and depicted drunk on many occasions, a man is shown tied down to a bed going through withdrawal; a man is shown smoking many times, drugs are referenced, a man is said to smoke four packs of cigarettes a day; lying, stealing, anger, gambling, and dysfunctional family portrayals.
THE GLASS CASTLE is a drama about a free-spirited, tight-knit family and their adventures together as they struggle with their father’s alcoholism. All her life, Jeannette listens to her father Rex’s grandiose plans to build a glass castle: a house made of glass, solar panels, spiraling staircases, and raw beauty. However, the reality is that their family is poverty-stricken and forced to move countless times from one shack to another to stay ahead of bill collectors and law enforcement.
As free spirits, neither one of Jeannette’s parents take responsibility for anything, preferring grand gestures and daydreams to actual follow-through. Thus, the duty of caring for the family, including her parents and her three siblings often falls to Jeannette. Despite his moments of cruelty, the relational bond between Jeannette and her father is strong, and he often inspires her and his other children with his enthusiasm, zest for adventure and his compassion for their fears. Even so, Rex’s great moments are sharply juxtaposed against his unpredictable temper, fueled by his drinking problem, and the physical and emotional abuse which he heaps upon his family.
After pleading with him many times to give up his drinking habit, Jeannette comes to the bitter conclusion that her father is all talk and no action. Realizing that the only chance any of them have for a future lies in escaping from their dysfunctional family, Jeannette slowly saves money and begins to educate herself so that one by one, the children can leave their past and scars behind.
Even after Jeannette makes it out to New York City and finds a relationship with a wealthy businessman, she realizes that the past is not so easily forgotten. Her parents move to New York as well and live as squatters on the city’s Lower East Side, always hovering in the background of her thoughts and her now prosperous life. Jeannette is confronted with the reality that the demons she seeks to escape can only be overcome by bringing them out into the light, facing the truth of the past and learning to love despite the scars.
The cast of THE GLASS CASTLE does an incredible job of bringing out the highs and lows, the beauty and the pain, of the real-life story of the Walls family. The viewer cannot help but feel the vacillating emotions of fear, pain, inspiration, and love as the plot progresses.
That said, THE GLASS CASTLE is dark in many places and has limited moments of redemptive value. The worldview of the movie is intensely humanistic, with Rex making many comments throughout about how there is no reason or order to the universe and how being “free” of rules and societal conventions is a goal one should strive towards.
The absolute lack of parental care and protection for the children is incredibly painful to watch, and while Rex mentions that he has regrets at the end of the movie, neither he nor his wife ever truly apologize for their abusive parenting. While Jeannette and the other children are shown seeking out healing and learning to love in spite of their pain, the viewer is left with a distinct sense of oppressive sadness at the end of the movie because the redemption found is incomplete. Due to the mature subject matter of the movie and the profuse amount of language and blasphemy, THE GLASS CASTLE warrants extreme caution.