Sunday, 16 October 2016

Trespass Against Us (EIFF 14)

Trespass Against Us begins with a scene in the middle of a field in rural England, where a car full of men and a young boy (who is behind the wheel) is chasing a rabbit. I immediately knew two things about this film: 1) It could not possibly end well; and 2) I was never going to be as sympathetic as I could be to the film’s protagonist, who is the father of the boy driving the car. 

But I knew even before the film started that I would enjoy watching Trespass Against Us. That’s because it stars two of my favourite actors: Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson. Fassbender plays Chad Cutler, the aforementioned father, while Gleeson plays Chad’s father, Colby Cutler, the leader of a gang of thieves. This is very much a film about the three male generations of the Cutler clan, though Chad’s wife, Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal) plays a key role. 

The Cutlers are not, as you may have guessed, your average British family. It’s never clear why the family (and other members of the gang) live in trailers in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps they are ‘travellers’, nomadic groups that live on the fringes of society. But whatever their background, they’re a unique group, living on crime (which gets more daring all the time but is rarely violent) and not worrying about things like education (none of the men in the Cutler clan can read). Kelly is not content with either of these features of life as a Cutler and encourages Chad to give up that life and give their two children a normal education and a normal life. Chad is a loving father and sympathetic to this encouragement, but Colby, who is also a loving father in his own way, stands in the way of any thought of Chad leaving the group.

Meanwhile, the police, led by P.C. Lovage (Rory Kinnear), are convinced that Chad is behind recent major robberies and are desperately looking for enough evidence to put him away. 

On the surface, Trespass Against Us may sound like it has a strong plot, but from that opening scene it is always chaotic, living in the moment the way the Cutler gangs lives as a whole. One is never sure whether this film is supposed to be a quirky crime drama or a quirky comedy. This is not always satisfying (especially with its handheld camera work and endless car chases), but it adds something to the realism of the film. I would go so far as to say the story, cinematography and direction could have been better. However, there are two things that set Trespass Against Us apart. The first I have already mentioned, namely the film’s two main actors. Neither Fassbender nor Gleeson disappoint, delivering utterly convincing performances that will keep me watching for more. The second thing is the role of religion in the film, a role hinted at in the film’s title. Colby is a very religious (Catholic) man who believes the world is flat and that education is evil. The result is some very entertaining dialogue (if you can understand the heavy accents). 

Despite the film’s many flaws, there was something about the story of Chad that felt original and compelling and so I’m going to let Trespass Against Us slide across the line to ***+. My mug is up. 

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