September 17, 2020  (Web Review)


Breaking Glass, 84 min., not rated, DVD: $24.99, Jul. 7

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Said to have been inspired by actual events, writer-director Michael Bentham’s pained drama may recall John Patrick Shanley’s play-into-film property “Doubt” in addition to a handful of other films, from documentaries (“Capturing the Friedmans“) to scripted works (“We Need to Talk About Kevin“) on the theme of child-abuse allegations. In an affluent Australian suburb, two prominent couples live side-by-side, documentary filmmaker Emily (Matilda Rigway) and her husband Danny (Mark Leonard Winter) adjacent to crusading liberal politician Joel (Tom Wren) and his sleek wife Becka (Geraldine Hakewill), in a lush, privileged and Edenic world of swimming pools and thick tropical foliage. After an offscreen incident during a play-date, Emily and Danny’s four-year-old daughter claims to have been molested by Joel and Bek’s nine-year-old son. The two sets of parentsoften the women and the men pairing offtry at first in a civilized fashion to address the horrendous allegations, and there are multiple ironies; Bek is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a family member and claims her personal agony and insight is proof enough that her son would never turn out to be a budding sexual predator himself. Joel has taken up the unpopular cause of Afghan refugees and is receiving threats (but he also has an internet pornography habit). And Emily and Danny enjoy making recreational sex tapes together. The two households’ self-justifications and escalating defenses gradually disintegrate relations between each other – and while there is no clear verdict in the end, things will definitely never be the same among the former friends. The film’s backdrop of overwhelming, almost oppressively fecund rainforest verdure was said to draw from Melbourne author Maria Tumarkin and her notion of “traumascapes,” though the rich high-definition imagery does not quite open up the stagy nature of what is essential a four-character piece that is mostly all dialogue. But acting is superb and the seemingly insolvable domestic dilemma in the plot is likely to haunt viewers long afterwards. (C. Cassady)