Breaking Glass

Movie Review by Mark Bayross

Starring: Phil Daniels, Hazel O’Connor, Jon Finch, Jonathan Pryce
Director: Brian Gibson

Brian WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT? Gibson’s 1980 story of a singer trying to make it big in the music business has now been released on DVD. The film stars Hazel O’Connor as Kate, a spirited young singer who is befriended by, then managed by, a dodgy but resourceful promoter called Danny, played by Phil Daniels.

Danny rescues her from playing in front of psychotic punks in fleapit London pubs, helps her assemble a competent band (including Adam And The Ants bassist Gary Tibbs, DC Carver from THE BILL TV series on guitar and Jonathan Pryce as a hard-of-hearing junkie saxophonist), and then proceeds to use every means necessary to break Kate – on whom he has developed a major infatuation – into the big time.

Of course, the path to the top is far from easy. Kate, Danny and the band (‘Breaking Glass’) have to deal with the usual showbiz pitfalls: initial disinterest and financial hardship, followed by supercilious and creatively void record industry types. The gang also have more than their fare share of emotional minefields to negotiate as success takes its toll: jealousy, paranoia, drugs and alienation all rear their ugly, destructive heads.

None of this is helped by the fact that Kate’s music and look is ahead of its time. Mixing a New Wave, futurist look with left-wing political lyrics, and a stage persona than looks like a cross between Marilyn Manson and Wurzel Gummidge, it takes a while for Kate’s music to take hold, and when it does, its not by the audience she expects.

Britain in 1980 was not a fun place to be, and this film captures the depressing sense of aimlessness of those times. With rising unemployment, trade union disputes, Nazi skinheads in the streets and the public opinion of the police at an all-time low, not to mention the genuine fear of nuclear war, this was not a time for complacency in music, and Hazel O’Connor’s confrontational lyrics and edgy performance suit the mood perfectly.

While undoubtedly a cautionary tale (it’s enough to put any aspiring rock star’s plans on hold), there are some funny moments during the ‘good old days’ of the band, and the performances are all superb, especially the leads. You will also be able to spot a who’s who of British TV actors in cameo roles, including Richard Griffiths, Jim Broadbent and a young Gary Olsen.

BREAKING GLASS serves as a moving portrayal of the struggle for success in an unforgiving time in the not-so-distant past. I only hope Hazel O’Connor’s career was less fraught.

4 out of 6 stars