Trespass Against Us | reviews, news & interviews
Trespass Against Us
Trespass Against Us
Fassbender vs Gleeson in a Cotswolds crime family clash
The Cutlers are Pa Larkin's Darling Buds of May clan gone feral, rampaging across the Cotswolds. With Brendan Gleeson as patriarch Colby and Michael Fassbender as the troubled heir to his travellers’ caravan throne, the tone is country miles from David Jason’s bucolic idyll, which the Cutlers affront at every turn. They are outlaws in the leafy lanes of a Gloucestershire Eden, whose mansions they rob for fun and profit. But Trespass Against Us finally falls too in love with its rogues to see its story straight.
Screenwriter Alastair Siddons first tackled this tale in a documentary about the family who inspired the Cutlers, Gloucestershire Irish travellers held responsible for most of the county’s crime. Director Adam Smith – making his fiction feature debut after strong TV work and a career-long visual collaboration with the Chemical Brothers – shares Siddons’ sympathy with these existences on the margins, criminal and damaging though they can be.The Cutlers’ camp is a chaotic bacchanal, flames, nakedness and violence flaring unpredictably. That’s the growing problem for Fassbender’s Chad and his wife Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal) as they plot a different life for their two young children in the straight world, sending both erratically to the school Colby kept Chad from (the Cutlers pictured above). Colby is the imposing obstacle to their dreams of escape, lounging hugely in shiny sportswear. He’s made more absurd by his airy alternative facts about a world he still holds to be flat, filling his grandson Tyson with fantasies which bind him to Colby’s kingdom, not the council’s. When he fixes his hurt, milky, predatory eyes on those who oppose him, Gleeson mixes menace with the shambolic physique and tall tales. Fassbender matches him for charisma, as a dangerous but cowed rough diamond, getting ready to blow at his life’s contradictions. When the school washes its hands of his son and rivalry with the police turns vicious, he’s caught in a trap. There are more suggestive precedents to this clan than the Larkins. The more benign Page family, for instance, in Philip Trevelyan’s 1969 documentary The Moon and the Sledgehammer, still able then to live in the Sussex woods, and ruled by another resented, ageing patriarch who wrong-footed others with surreal philosophy. Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem shows how far you can take such a tale, with Mark Rylance’s Johnny Byron wrestling with English reality and myth in a riotous national epic.
Siddons and Smith’s ambition lies between the two. Chad’s Colby-blessed inability to read keeps him in a world where his genius as a getaway driver more than compensates, and Smith makes a car chase through night-time Cotswolds lanes which ends under a cow exhilarating, pumped right up by Chemical Brother Tom Rowlands' score. The appeal of this outlaw life speeds through your veins then. Its Gloucestershire subculture, caught in the characters’ accents, also fascinates. But the powder-keg lit by Fassbender and Gleeson’s performances putters out. Their seemingly inevitable confrontation and the sense of looming dread blows away. Trying to avoid prejudiced cliché about its subjects, the film's nerve fails. King Colby’s blarney fools it too.
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