Set in a pre-Thatcher England beset by social turmoil and labor strikes, Breaking Glass stars Hazel O’Connor as Kate, an idealistic singer/songwriter whose life forever changes after she meets small-time promoter Danny (Phil Daniels of Quadrophenia fame) and forms the band Breaking Glass. When neo-Nazis crash the group’s appearance at a “Rock Against 1984” anti-fascism concert and kill an audience member, Kate’s horrified response makes her headline news. Unprepared for the attention suddenly thrust upon her, she loses her grasp on reality, breaking Danny’s heart and alienating her band members along the way. Following an exhausting sold-out gig in which her new manager has to forcibly dope her up to get her to play, she has a mental breakdown and is institutionalized. The film’s ambiguous ending has Danny bringing Kate a keyboard to play during her sure to be lengthy recovery process.
Much like Once and Sing Street, Breaking Glass is a naturalistic musical. Highlighted by O’Connor’s songs that were “inspired by punk,” the film differentiates itself from other rags-to-riches cautionary tales through the vulnerable performance of its leading lady. During the course of the movie, she often dreads an Orwellian future in which man has been replaced by robots. But by the time she takes to the stage in an outfiit that clearly influenced Tron‘s production design to sing the climactic number “Eighth Day,” her humanity is seemingly gone. See for yourself:
To paraphrase the film’s tagline, Breaking Glass is a shattering experience. It features the musical appeal of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and a uniquely British sensibility. Yet it remains virtually unknown in America. But if you take the time and effort to watch it you will be rewarded with a compelling viewing experience.