The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeannette Walls, was adapted into a movie that was directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, a PLNU alumnus (class of 2001). The film, released on Aug. 11, brought originality to the story while retaining the powerful questions of identity, forgiveness and family that Walls wrestles with in the novel.
“There’s just something about the way that Jeannette describes her life,” said Cretton. “She describes it with so much humor and beauty without shying away from the parts that were really brutal and difficult. That kind of mixture really connected with me.”
The Glass Castle is based on the true story of Walls’ childhood and focuses on how her parents were unconventional and erratic, which forced the children to take care of themselves and each other. The central storyline of the movie is the complicated relationship between Walls and her father, Rex Walls—an alcoholic, fast-tempered man. The film strikes a chord of truth when it focuses on the complicated reality of young girls trying to understand and love their fathers.
This film did exactly what Walls did in her book: portrayed familial brokenness in truth, wove humor with heartbreak and depicted longing and love in such a real way that the viewer is led to reflect on familial love in their own life.
Cretton said that for him, seeing the relationships grow between the performers was something he felt privileged to witness. Brie Larson played Walls and Woody Harrelson played her father.
“I got to work with really incredible performers,” said Cretton. “To be able to witness them go through their process, put their own interpretations into these characters and the material… it was a really big privilege to be a part of that.”
Adapting a novel for film is difficult, Cretton said, because “you’re taking something you love and stripping it down to its essentials.” However, after a long process of re-reading the book, he and the producers decided on centering the story around the relationship between the daughter and her father.
“I think the most moving day that we had on set was when Jeannette came and visited the set and got to watch Woody perform as her dad and watch Brie perform as her,” said Cretton. “It was a very moving experience to watch her witness that.”
Cretton said that when he graduated from PLNU, he planned to work a steady job so he could continue to make movies on the side. He didn’t necessarily plan to make a career out of film-making, but instead did it because it made him happy.
“If you’re pursuing the thing that you actually love and you’re really intentional about pursuing that, it’s never a waste of time,” said Cretton. “It’s interesting because our society has found a way to monetize [creativity] and turn it into an industry… I get sad when I think of somebody who feels like a failure if they’re not making money off of their art. I think if you can be active in being creative… it’s the process of doing that, it’s the feeling of making that allows you to grow and be better.”
Cretton’s next project is adapting a script for another memoir called Just Mercy.
“What inspires me the most, I think, both in the process of making movies and in life, is it’s a relationship with people,” said Cretton. “There’s so many people that contribute to what you end up seeing on screen. It’s such a collaborative, creative process that requires so many people. That’s why I love it.”