The awkward but very nice guy Paul is struggling with his mentality while his girlfriend Clare is pregnant with their baby. Clare's mother is not fond of Paul and can't possibly see him as a father figure. Meanwhile something or someone is messing around with Paul's life and psyche, which causes to drive him more and more away from reality.
The shocking discovery of the amazing "Tin Can Man" made me want to watch more from the team behind it and found out about this film by Colin Downey, the cinematographer on "Tin Can Man". Not really knowing more about it than that, and that the two leads from "Tin Can Man" were in it, I still knew it would be an interesting watch. The two films are pretty far from each other, but there's still a form of familiarity here, which I'm pretty sure comes from Patrick O'Donnell's acting chops and having the same man behind the camera. Not to mention that Ivan Kavanagh, the director of "Tin Can Man", is the editor here. So we're talking same but different, eh?
"The Looking Glass" tells the story of Paul, a rather strange and peculiar man. A very good man, but troubled. From his young years living with his alcoholic uncle and spending time alone in the woods pretending, to his current adult life with girlfriend Clare and her pregnancy, Paul just feels a bit off. Clare's bitch-of-a-mother tries to get in the way of the two, as she thinks Clare should be with someone stronger, and not this weak and awkward man. This is hard enough on Paul, but now there seems like other people want to hurt him as well. Someone is lighting things on fire, there are strange men in the woods nearby, and Paul's anxiety is tearing down the thin wall that has been keeping him sane.
It's hard to describe "The Looking Glass", because it's never truly fantasy, yet there's also no doubt that there's something surreal in the air. Things just don't take logical turns, and the whole movie feels like a psychological fairytale. It's a fairytale for the mentally unstable, if you will. What makes this better than a lot of the movies in the same league, is that it still holds a foot in reality through-out. It's very unnerving as we're still trying to hold on - where some films just throw in over-the-top, weird figures and trippy LSD scenes, this one dwells into the psyche of our character.
Frankly, I'm not sure anyone call pull off a better likable yet awkward and neurotic character than Patrick O'Donnell can. Between this and "Tin Can Man", I'm extremely impressed by him and hope this is a name we'll be seeing a lot more of. The same can be said about Michael Parle, of course. Sadly he has a smaller part in this movie, but his presence is so creepy that he instantly steals the show whenever he's on.
"The Looking Glass" is one of those movies you can dissect into little bits to find out what's really the problem with Paul. One of the highlights here is that it's not going to extremes, so when you try to figure out what's going on you can always find a thread or two to follow. If you get lost, which I'm sure you will a few times, there will be other threads along the way. By the end of you won't have it all figured out obviously, or at least I didn't, but I am quite convinced that there are answers within this mental meltdown.
I don't have an opinion on Irish cinema since I know nothing about it, but between Colin, Ivan, Patrick and Michael there's enough talent and creepiness to go around. I don't even know how these four are connected, but I sure hope they continue to work with eachother. The atmosphere, cinematography, acting and the twisted imagery is what makes "The Looking Glass" such a joy to watch, or rather it's what will keep you hooked even when you might be confused. It's creepiness and intensity packed in one little neurosis.