Director: Adam Smith
Screenplay: Alastair Siddons
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Lyndsey Marshal, Killian Scott, Rory Kinnear, Sean Harris
Runtime: 99 Minutes
Originally conceived by director Adam Smith as a documentary on the real-life “Godfathers of Cheltenham”, The Johnsons, Trespass Against Us is a depiction of traveller life ripe with religious allegory and articulation, of fathers and sons across three generations of the Cutler family contained in a cycle of crime and larceny.
The directorial vision by Smith lifts the film up out of its grim roots through the kind of camera work present in much of his television and music video work. A series of well-choreographed car chases have some standout visual moments. But for the most part, it’s a restrained feature that puts its family drama at the centre.
Michael Fassbender is predictably great lead as the morally and emotionally broken Chad, trapped in a life for his family under the role of his father, Colby. Brendan Gleeson slips so comfortably into this role of the court holding head of the group, which ensures that there is still a comforting, world-weary lightness to his atrocious demeanour, with their kinship of blood and heart over mind extending to Chad’s own son. Lyndsey Marshal’s thankless role as Chad’s wife Kelly sees someone struggling in a world that is clearly not her own, wanting the best for their children while existing as a passive onlooker.
Alastair Siddons’ screenplay brings a moral murkiness to its representation of some of the poorest and least advantaged people in Britain. Decedents of decedents carrying with them a stigmatic perception that is difficult to be shaken, or even alleviated by certain members. Even though their acts of theft they are placed with a sense of alignment with the audience that at times feels abnormal with whimsy, and manipulative when placed in tandem with the likes of Rory Kinnear’s smirking P.C. – an embodiment of walking prejudice whose week characterisation carries over to much of the cast outside of the core two. There’s also a troubling character in the form of Sean Harris as a mentally challenged man who’s routinely abused and ridiculed without purpose.
There’s a conflicting tonal shift in the final scenes that feel out of touch with the rest of the picture, with a lack of impactful narrative resolution to some that requires more attention – as does much of the character work beyond mood. It’s odd melodrama and biblical ramblings leave it muddled, salvaged mainly by two really decent performances.