Trespass Against Us: A thrilling traveller's tale
by Mark Donaldson
- An outlaw struggles to leave his criminal life and domineering father behind in Adam Smith’s feature debut
Adam Smith, the award winning television and music video director makes his feature debut with Trespass Against Us [+see also:
interview: Adam Smith
film profile], playing as part of the Thrill strand of the 60th BFI London Film Festival, fresh from a world premiere in Toronto. To provide better opportunities for his kids, Chad Cutler (Michael Fassbender) attempts to break away from his life of an outlaw, which puts him at odds with his father (Brendan Gleeson).
The traveller community is one rarely represented on screen, when it is, they are usually presented as thieves and scoundrels, villains or outsiders in a larger story. What Trespass Against Us does is make them protagonists in their own narrative. Alastair Siddons’ script is full of colloquialisms delivered in thick regional accents, lending texture and authenticity to the characters, never demonising them or their lifestyle.
Chad is attempting to leave the criminality expected of him by his father and other members of their small community rather than the traveller lifestyle. His wife, Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal) is aware of this and at one point comments that she’s not asking him to move into a house. He has his heart set on a new plot of land with the kindly Noah, (Alan Williams) but has to get his affairs in order first. The problem for Chad and Kelly is that there are a number of factors standing in their way, domineering patriarch Colby is the most obvious, but society at large and Chad’s own temperament are other obstacles preventing them making a clean break. Indeed, there are times at which we aren’t even sure we believe Chad really wants to leave everything behind.
Fassbender ably portrays this inner conflict, at one point managing to convey a wealth of emotion from behind a balaclava. Gleeson is in fine form as Colby, simmering with thinly veiled rage, with a manipulative streak and his own particular interpretation of a traveller’s way of life. There is a real thrill in seeing these two actors on screen together at the height of their powers.
Equally thrilling are the car chases, directed with energetic aplomb by Smith and complemented by a chest-thumping score from regular collaborators The Chemical Brothers. There is a visceral nature to these scenes: point of view shots from the windscreen, close ups on spinning wheels. By feeling every shift of the gear stick and screech of the tyres we understand why Chad finds himself falling back into old habits – it’s exciting. The world he wants to become a part of, with its parochial primary schools, prejudiced police officers and drab shopping arcades lacks the freedom and vitality of his life with his father and fellow outlaws.
Trespass Against Us is a Potboiler and Albert Granville production in association with Film4, BFI, Animal Kingdom and Lipsync. The film is sold by Protagonist Pictures and distributed theatrically by Lionsgate in the UK.
Our 60th BFI London Film Festival coverage is run in collaboration with the UK National Film and Television School's MA in Film Studies, Programming and Curation.