Film Review – ‘Trespass Against Us’ (2016)

Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson star in ‘Trespass Against Us’, a narrative centred around the Cutlers, a family of travellers in the Cotswolds. Though this is billed as a “British crime thriller”, for my money the interesting scenes are the ones that echo more of a gritty drama.

The most heated scenes are ones in which Chad (Fassbender) and Colby (Gleeson) vie for autonomy and freedoms to make choices about places to live and school education for Chad’s kids. There are tense moments where Chad leads criminal activity; taunting the police in a stolen car, burglary of expensive items, etc. However, these are short lived, and inconsequential.

The two leads are great and represent a troubled father-son relationship with nuance. We also get convincing performances from Lyndsey Marshal and Georgie Smith who play Chad’s wife and son respectively. At times the dialogue is all too obvious, and even with the broad southern accents in play, you sometimes doubt that these characters would ever say such sentences. Gleeson’s Colby is all too philosophical for my liking.

Conversely, the dialogue during the car chase scenes is deliberately more concise, and for obvious reason. It is in these scenes that the characterisation is much more detailed. We get to find out what these characters are like under pressure, and how they behave when stressed. At times this leads to some humour as well – on one occasion Chad is demanding that another of the cohort soon to be chased in hot pursuit, buys him a packet of cigarettes.

The score is from Tom Rowlands (The Chemical Brothers). Sometimes this fits perfectly with the rural surroundings. The low-key bass elements highlight difference. They are most noticeable when the camera tracks strangers walking past the characters in their cars. This happens in a particular scene early in the feature, where we are a little closer to the town centre. The music is certainly unique, and I only wish it had taken a more centre stage role, in a film which had too many strands, and not enough narrative progression.

There are elements here of characters forced to pursue a day to day kind of existence in part due to circumstances outside of their control. This is a theme all too familiar in British drama, it is evident in ‘Bypass‘ (2014) for example, and also in many of the narrative threads across the the TV series that followed Shane Meadows‘ ‘This Is England’. Here though, ‘Trespass Against Us‘ cannot decide if it wants to be a kitchen sink drama, or a fast paced car chase film focussed on criminality. There are excellent parts of each, but added up it falls short of an impressive whole.

[rating=3]|Zach Roddis

Drama | UK, 2016 | 15 | 3rd July 2017 (UK) | Lionsgate Film | Dir. Adam Smith | Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Lyndsey Marshal, Georgie Smith, Rory Kinnear, Sean Harris |Buy:[Blu-ray] [2017]