The most recent memoir-turned-movie, The Glass Castle, opened in theaters last Friday, drawing fans with its gripping storyline and all-star cast including Woody Harrelson, Brie Larson and Naomi Watts.
This film exposes audiences to the author Jeannette Walls’ personal upbringing and struggle to navigate a life molded by two less-than-standard parents. Larson, the Oscar-winning actress from 2016’s Room, was the perfect choice to play Walls.
Honoring the book’s structure with then-and-now flashbacks, the film follows Jeannette’s adult successes as a writer for New York Magazine and engagement to a wealthy businessman, while also uncovering painful memories of her childhood, raised by an artistic, free-spirited mother (Watts) and a brilliant — when sober — larger-than-life father (Harrelson). Throughout their childhood, Jeannette and her three siblings were pulled from one home to another, often surviving without electricity, running water, or food for days on end.
This film takes viewers on an emotional rollercoaster, filled with compassion as Jeannette bonds with her loving father who, despite his failure to provide for the family (due to a history of childhood abuse from his mother, resulting in an addiction to alcohol as a coping mechanism), does what he can to fill her life with adventure and optimism — distracting from their situation by engineering a plan to build their imagined “Glass Castle”.
On the descending side of the rollercoaster, Jeannette — or “mountain goat” as nicknamed by her dad — watches her father struggle to hold it together for his family, often falling into bouts of alcoholism and self-hatred.
One theme holds true throughout the movie: despite her father’s fluctuating behaviors and string of letdowns, Jeannette and her dad share many qualities — including a sense of adventure and an unwavering bond and love for one another.
Walls’ talent for writing hooked readers, making her memoir a New York Times Bestseller, a success that allowed her to escape a childhood of neglect and earn her an incredibly prosperous career as an author.
Although her childhood was less than ideal, her story highlights one truth: that children, no matter how they are treated, love their parents unconditionally.