Everyone, no matter how comfortable, is just a few bad days away from seeing their life crumble in front of their eyes. That’s the premise of the British psychological thriller The Glass Man, which is finally arriving on digital download in the UK almost a decade after it first premiered at FrightFest in 2011. It centres on Andy Nyman’s suit-wearing, middle-class fella Martin Pyrite and follows him over the course of probably the worst day of his life.
Martin has lost his high-flying City job after an unexplained scandal, but hasn’t told his wife Julie (Neve Campbell) and puts on a suit every day to keep up the ruse. After pleas to his former employer’s HR department fall on deaf ears and he is mugged for his watch – in a heart-breaking, non-violent spectacle of pathos – a misunderstanding over a call from a former co-worker leads Julie to believe he’s having an affair. As he hits rock bottom, the intimidating and scarred loan shark Pecco (James Cosmo) turns up at his door. He either wants his money, or for Martin to accompany him on an unspecified errand.
Naturally, Pecco’s idea of an evening errand isn’t a trip to the 24-hour supermarket for some ice cream and a six-pack of beers. Soon, Martin is being forced to push his steadfast morals to the limit under duress from Pecco. Cosmo is capable of veering from disarmingly avuncular to utterly terrifying with a simple shift of his eyeline or a coarsening of his Cockney accent. It’s a great performance which finds an interesting balance between being a horrifying heavy and a strangely funny deadpan comic.
But the film belongs to Nyman, who’s an avatar for twitchy Britishness as Martin – an insecure, desperate man grasping for control as his life spirals. Nyman is a performer of underrated versatility and he’s every bit as brilliant here as he was in Ghost Stories – which he also created for the stage with Jeremy Dyson – or as the sleazy TV producer in Charlie Brooker’s satirical zombie series Dead Set. Despite the increasing seriousness of the situation, Nyman delightfully under-plays just about everything with quiet terror.
There are, naturally, surprises along the way as writer-director Cristian Solimeno’s story rattles on and it’s very much a narrative mixed bag. Some of the turns come off very well indeed, but ultimately the whole thing ends up spinning its wheels in the sludge of psychological fractures it cannot snap back into place. Potentially compelling threads are left dangling in nothingness, with Solimeno presenting precious few answers to key questions.
As often as it’s exciting, The Glass Man is frustrating. Campbell, in particular, is sadly underused as a character who’s never anything more than A Wife. This works best as a showcase for its pair of central performers – both of whom often seem to have more of a grasp on the material than the movie does on itself.
Dir: Cristian Solimeno
Scr: Cristian Solimeno
Cast: Andy Nyman, James Cosmo, Neve Campbell, Cristian Solimeno
Prd: Cristian Solimeno, Bruce Melhuish, Paul Fournel
DOP: Bruce Melhuish
Music: Oli Newman
Run time: 108 minutes
The Glass Man is available on digital download in the UK from 7 December.