TRESPASS AGAINST US (UK/15A/99mins)
Directed by Adam Smith. Starring Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Barry Keoghan, Killian Scott, Lyndsey Marshal.
THE PLOT: Chad Culter (Michael Fassbender) and his family live on a halting site with Chad’s father Colby (Brendan Gleeson) and other members of the extended family. Inherently drawn towards crime, and standing up to those that would “trespass against us”, Chad finally sees that an environment where the police are constantly on their tails is not one that he wants to subject his young children to any more. After one final job for the domineering patriarch of the family, Chad sets about getting away from his father, but soon realises that this is not as easy as it looks.
THE VERDICT: ‘Trespass Against Us’ marks the feature length debut of ‘Doctor Who’ and Chemical Brothers video director Adam Smith, and boasts an impressive Irish cast, including Brendan Gleeson, Michael Fassbender, Killian Scott and Barry Keoghan.
Michael Fassbender leads the cast as the uneducated but charming Chad Cutler; a man who has always lived under the domineering thumb of his father, and suddenly realises its time to get out. Brendan Gleeson takes on the role of Colby Cutler, said patriarch and imposing presence. Both Fassbender and Gleeson have a good thing going in their frightening stillness, which both display throughout the film; they work well together and their chemistry on screen is strong, but there is always an undercurrent of dissatisfaction coming from both characters toward one another. Gleeson is imposing and frightening, but can turn on a dime, whereas Fassbender makes Chad more charming and lively than his father. The rest of the cast features Lyndsey Marshal, Rory Kinnear, Sean Harris, Gerard Kearns, Killian Scott and Barry Keoghan, all of whom do well with the West Country dialect they spout in the film.
Screenwriter Alistair Siddons has worked as a director throughout his career, and ‘Trespass Against Us’ was borne out of a documentary he made, and saw a narrative feature in the subjects. The dialogue is presented in a Glocestershire accent – which all of the actors manage well – and this gives a warmth and a charm to the characters, as they stay true to their roots and who they are Siddons makes sure that the audience knows the Culter family is one that operates as though the law doesn’t apply to them, and it is the threat of the family breaking down under pressures from the law and from the inside that creates much of the tension within the story. As well as this, Siddons has fun with the characters who want to be better people within society, and make sure that their kids have better lives than them, but aren’t always sure how to break free.
Director Adam Smith coaxes strong performances from Fassbender and Gleeson, almost constantly pitting these two very similar men against one another. The set pieces are carefully directed, and the cat and mouse game played between police and the family, as well as within the family, are well drawn on screen. ‘Trespass Against Us’ is well paced and the characters created in such a manner that it is hard not to root for this band of uneducated outlaws who are constantly at war with themselves and the police.
In all, ‘Trespass Against Us’ is a tightly scripted family drama that has a lot of heart, but plenty of frustrations. Fassbender and Gleeson lead the cast ably, and the film cements Adam Smith as a director to watch out for.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    After a brief appearance together in Assassin’s Creed, Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson re-team for a more satisfying father-son relationship story in Trespass Against Us.

    The Cutlers are a Traveller family living on a halting site in Gloucestershire. Patriarch Colby (Gleeson) believes in passing down his beliefs and code of life from father to son to grandson. His illiterate son Chad (Fassbender) has a wife in Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal), a young son in Tyson (George Smith) and daughter in Mini (Kacie Anderson). Colby is keen on inducting Tyson into the family business – that of an outlaw. The Cutlers have a bad reputation around town. When not breaking into houses and stealing goods, they’re taunting the police. Colby eggs Chad to carry out various acts to provoke P.C. Lovage (Rory Kinnear), including dangerous driving in a car painted all in yellow. The thing about the Cutlers is that they’re outlaws who are savvy enough not to be identified or get caught by the Police. However, Chad is not as smart as his old man and P.C. Lovage is determined to catch him red-handed…

    An original story by Alastair Siddons, Trespass Against Us is also the feature debut of Adam Smith. He’s worked in a number of fields, such as TV drama, documentaries and music videos with the likes of The Chemical Brothers – who also score here with an evocative soundrack. It’s an auspicious debut from Smith, driven by a story of marginalised lives – more involving than this week’s similar Tomato Red. The Cutlers are a likeable bunch. We may wonder about their dubious approach towards the law, but they have their own code of honour which becomes a driving force in the film. Smith is careful enough to suggest that we shouldn’t sympathise too much with them. They’re bold and daring, but also reckless at times, with the potential for causing harm to more vulnerable others. This is exemplified by the simple-minded Kenny (Sean Harris), who Chad taunts whenever he gets a chance.

    Given the fact that the film also features quite a few Irish actors (Barry Keoghan, Killian Scott), it’s not hard to imagine that this could be an Irish story as well. It certainly has relevance to an Irish audience. The heart of the film is the father-son relationship. Chad is a chip off the old block, but Colby is a more careful man who knows his son is going to screw up some day and put his family at risk. That’s where Colby could step in and have more influence. Fassbender and Gleeson portray that dynamic very well, getting down to the inner conflict of a weaker son living up to his father’s reputation. You hope that Tyson won’t grow up to be the same, but yet you fear for him. That’s the strength of the story and Smith’s sterling direction – three generations of Cutlers told with equal clarity. The rest of the cast provide strong support and fill out other perspectives on the Cutlers. Trespass Against Us is a fine debut from Smith and features two Irish actors in their prime, as they sink their teeth into these juicy roles. Well worth seeking out. ****