Saturday, 21 October 2017

Trespass Against Us (2016)

There's a rich vein of films being made in and regarding rural Britain these days, what with The Goob, The Levelling, God's Own Country, A Field in England, and Sightseers to name but a few, which is something that I am more than on board with because, frankly, our television seems to steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that anywhere other than Edinburgh, Manchester, Cardiff and London actually exists in the UK.

First time director Adam Smith's Gloucestershire-set Trespass Against Us falls into this category too, focusing on the rural criminal misadventures of the Cutler clan; a travelling community who live on the literal and figurative outskirts of town, venturing out in the dead of night to ramraid country houses and lead the local police a merry dance with cross-country high-speed car chases. At the heart of the film is a convincing and complicated bond between West Country father and son, Colby and Chad, played by Brendan Gleeson and Michael Fassbender. Theirs is a familiar angst fuelled mix of love and hate; Fassbender has reached an age where he wants something more peaceful and law abiding for his family, his wife Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal) and their children, including the specific desire to give the kids the education that he never had. 

Gleeson, on the other hand, isn't at all willing to sever the patriarchal apron strings; he relies on Fassbender to commit the daring raids that provide the ramshackle dynasty an income and a reputation, and he rules his roost so effectively that he can sit around the community bonfire at night pontificating to his captive audience his various philosophies and staunch beliefs - including his view that the world is flat not round - without challenge or criticism. It's telling therefore that Colby's closest aide, his 'joey' (aka skivvy), is Sean Harris' dimwitted, semi-naked freak - the kind of character who wouldn't have looked out of place on the set of Deliverance

Trespass Against Us has a sensibility somewhat reminiscent of the 1970s, being somehow freewheeling and brooding, often at the same time. Indeed, harking back to the aforesaid Deliverance for a moment, there are actually moments here that feel not unlike a more typical Burt Reynolds 'good ole boys' production from that decade, updated and transported to rural England. Granted it makes for a tonally confusing piece, but as a film that affords us a seemingly authentic insight and a window into a lifestyle usually delivered in a patronising manner via the likes of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Trespass Against Us is still worth your time and Smith certainly looks set to mature as a filmmaker if he builds on this effort. If I have to advise any caution, it's that the thick carrot-crunching accents are sometimes hard to distinguish and the unique traveller slang made me feel like the DVD could have done with an accompanying glossary booklet.

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