'The Glass Castle' Reminds Us to Forgive Our Mothers for Being Human

the glass castle

In The Glass Castle, a film inspired by Jeannette Walls's New York Times best-selling memoir, audiences are faced with a tragic and beautiful story about survival. The story of the Walls family is one that celebrates the human spirit -- despite the fact that chaos and turmoil surrounds them entirely. It taps into the power of memory as Jeannette (played by Brie Larson) recalls with an unfiltered lens the moments that made and broke her family. 

Though it is highly unlikely audiences will have experienced the exact traumas the Walls children endured at the hands of their complex parents, it is impossible to walk away without gaining some perspective on your own life's complicated journey -- especially in regard to your relationship with your mother. 

WARNING: Mild spoilers for The Glass Castle lie ahead. 

  • Rosemary, played by Naomi Watts, vacillated between madness and genius -- something the real Jeannette said Watts captured perfectly.

    family glass castle movie

    "I think that Naomi had, probably, the toughest role, because Mom is a bundle of contradiction," Jeannette said to the room at New York's Whitby Hotel during a press junket CafeMom attended. "We all are, but my mother is a black belt in that area. She says one thing and means the opposite or [she'll] say something that is simultaneously inane and brilliant."

    Though the film primarily hones in on Jeanette's relationship with her raging alcoholic but equally charming father Rex (Woody Harrelson), it was Watts's mother character who bridged the gap for the entire audience. It was her that made us think back to our own families, and question whether or not we had ever been fair to the women who've raised us.  

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  • There were plenty of scenes where you couldn't decide if you want to shake Rosemary or console her.

    glass castle naomi watts

    She lets her children go for days without food so she can pursue her art; she lets her husband upheave the family time and time again with very little fight -- and as Jeanette gets older, her mother becomes manipulative and sometimes downright spiteful.

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  • But there are so many moments where we see Rosemary nurturing her children in ways most people never get -- feeding their creative spirits.

    naomi watts glass castle movie

    "At one point on the set [Watts] said, 'I love being Rosemary,'" Jeannette said. "And I love that because she didn't say, 'I love playing Rosemary.' She actually was being Rosemary, and she did find the love in this character who was so easy to dislike and pass judgment [on] because she's a 'bad mom.' But she did give us so many gifts, and to be able to embody those contradictions as brilliantly as she did, it was a stunning achievement."

  • Watts, who met with the real Rosemary many times, echoed that her resilient spirit was her most redeeming quality.

    naomi watts and brie larson

    "Rosemary once said ... 'If I go down the drain, I'll always come out the winner,'" Watts recalled. "It was such a beautiful kind of statement that I held onto. And she was, and she talked about how the kids would put on plays and she was there in the audience cheering them on, and it was just very refreshing and would never be broken by the dark experiences that they went through."

  • Unlike many films where it is easy to spot the villain, "The Glass Castle" forces you to remember your life's experiences with empathy.

    glass castle poster

    Our mothers, who may be flawed and may do terrible things -- and perhaps don't even deserve forgiveness -- are still perfectly imperfect humans. We often expect our parents to be our superheroes, and in turn we expect to be that for our own children. But in reality, we're all just trying to be our most authentic selves.

    And perhaps that righteous pursuit deserves a little leniency.

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  • "The Glass Castle" hits theaters August 11.