Writer and Director: Cristian Solimeno
Categorised as a thriller and receiving its UK premiere nine years after its initial release, The Glass Man, on first impressions, draws a clear outline of what we are to expect. A London businessman, Martin Pyrite (played by Andy Nyman) prepares himself for another day at the office. But he is nervous and high-strung: his wife Julie (Neve Campbell working an impeccable British accent) tunes into it. Martin gently brushes her concerns aside.
As he arrives in the office car park, he is met by a colleague. We discover that Martin has been fired and keeping it from his wife for months, building up an insurmountable debt. Martin whispers conspiratorially with his colleague. The whole office have been instructed not to speak to him.
Going to HR to collect his reference from the firm, Martin is horrified to learn that the reference will effectively bar him from seeking employment elsewhere. We piece together, from his protestations, that he has been made the fall-guy in refusing to play along with a corporate cover-up. Martin told the truth, and now he is paying the price.
In casting Nyman for this role, screenwriter and director Cristian Solimeno introduces an unlikely hero. Carrying a few extra pounds, and self-conscious about it (he tells a shop assistant that he doesn’t have the right sort of body for off-the-peg clothing), Martin’s diffidence immediately brings us on side. His day goes from bad to worse, as his watch is stolen and he returns home to find HR have left a message on the answerphone. Julie misunderstands, and accuses Martin of having an affair. They argue, and she storms off to bed. Following up after her, Martin tearfully confesses all that has happened. He has used up every line of credit, they have nothing left. But Julie has already fallen asleep thanks to a sleeping pill, and hears nothing.
The day is not done with Richard, as he hears someone hammering on the front door. A large, threatening figure appears. Pecco (James Cosmo) is a debt collector, and payment is due. As Pecco barges into the Pyrite’s home, he suggests that Martin helps him with a task, an exchange of favours, and the debt will be wiped clean.
We think we’ve been here before, but the film cuts through the tension with plenty of dry, British humour. Pitching between dark comedy and just plain dark, The Glass Man treads a fine line and gets away with it. James Cosmo commands the screen not just in the high-stakes moments, but in quieter, understated exchanges with Nyman, as they drive through night-time London. In an attempt to ingratiate himself, Martin asks if he should keep the motor running while Pecco attends to business. “No”, replies Pecco. “It’s bad for the environment.”
Our confidence in the alpha-male presence of Cosmo unravels in the latter half of the film, as we realise we are looking at not one, but two, unreliable narrators. Being able to trust what we are told is undermined as Martin descends into a fragmented hellscape, and takes us with him.
The Glass Man travels a long way from where it begins, and Solimeno’s attention to detail is impressive, even down to the characters’ names. Nyman and Cosmo work beautifully together, interplaying menace with vulnerability. Shifting tonally between the two states may have been a gamble, but it means this very British take on the thriller has both the power to disturb and unsettle.
Released 7 December 2020