Now on Blu-ray: The Gypsy Family Drama of ‘Trespass Against Us’

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In the United States we’re not too familiar with packs of gypsies living in caravans along the countryside. For most in America, the only glimpse we’ve had of these families living caravans in England came from the movie Snatch, which put a kind of funny, quirky twist on those gypsy families. The drama Trespass Against Us doesn’t have the same kind of oddball sensibility that Guy Ritchie brought to his film over 15 years ago. Instead Trespass Against Us looks at the family dynamic behind the rundown façade of caravans lined up in a pack, creating a drama that is as much about finding one’s self in the shadow of your family as well as a crime drama about trying to outrun a looming shadow of inevitability.

The Cutler family lives in their own little caravan community on the outskirts of the countryside. Chad (Michael Fassbender) lives with his wife Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal) and their two kids Tyson (Georgie Smith) and Mini (Kacie Anderson). Uneducated and unable to read, Chad survives through a life of petty crimes that funds his simple life on the fringes of society, and most of the criminal elements he’s engaged in are overseen by his father Colby (Brendan Gleeson). But this quiet life of small crime and close-knit family is endangered when a late night burglary goes wrong. Nobody is picked up by the cops but the shadow of suspicion from P.C. Lovage (Rory Kinnear) looms over Chad and his family. The stress creates a rift between the Cutler clan and the looming uncertainty concerning his own freedom takes its toll on Chad’s mental state.

The screenplay for Trespass Against Us by Alastair Siddons takes its time before reaching its escalation point, allowing the audience to get a sense of the world of outsiders that the Cutler family has created for themselves. The division that arise between Chad and Colby are slow to form, but once they do they provide the dramatic weight of the story. Colby is more than content with his gypsy lifestyle, and wants nothing more than to keep his family entrenched in this particular way of life. Chad, on the other hand, doesn’t want to continue with the life of crime and looking over his shoulder which comes with it. By having his children enrolled in school, Chad has already defied his father in a way that the looming patriarch doesn’t care for; at one point he even rails against the theory of evolution to his grandson. For Colby, ignorance truly is bliss.

Director Adam Smith’s film does have its moments of stark tension in the forms of car chases as Chad and his associates carry out a daring heist. These scenes within the dark of night are impressively constructed and even have surprising moments of levity, such as when one of the masked bandits enters a gas station in order to buy a pack of cigarettes. But much of the film’s tension comes in the form of its familial drama, with Colby willing to resort to devious means to keep his family together as he sees fit. Meanwhile, Chad struggles to provide a positive influence on his children while being under the constant supervision and suspicion of the authorities.

The real reason that Trespass Against Us is worth watching is the dueling performances of Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson, two of the finest actors working today. The two actors aren’t burdened with straight-faced absurdity of Assassin’s Creed, another movie where Gleeson played Fassbender’s father, and these two actors offer subdued performances that are able to retain their emotional weight. Slowly you watch as a relationship crumbles over the issue of patriarchal control, and Fassbender’s Chad emerges as more assertive towards his controlling father as his ways put his family in jeopardy.

On the Blu-ray edition of Trespass Against Us there are only a couple of special features. One is a featurette about the making of the film, featuring interviews with director Adam Smith, screenwriter Alastair Siddons, as well as the film’s cast members. The other featurette explores the film’s soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers and it also dives into Adam Smith’s longstanding working relationship with the electronic musicians.

Trespass Against Us may not live up to the expectations that its two leading actors would bring, but it’s still a modestly paced, entertaining drama. It features two quiet lead performances that carry their emotional weight through their subtlety. Family weighs heavily on our lives and there’s something universal about the drama of Trespass Against Us even though most us can’t identify with the life of gypsies in a caravan. Sometimes we have to take a stand for ourselves in the face of familial pressure and that’s what lends a sense of universality to Trespass Against Us.

Trespass Against Us
  • Overall Score
3

Summary

A well acted, modestly paced drama, Trespass Against Us doesn’t always mine its criminal story for tension as much as a slow burn familial drama.

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