Trespass Against Us tells the story of the Cutlers, a family of Irish travellers currently living in the West Country. Chad (played by an on-form Michael Fassbender) is a father and husband, looking for a more settled and safe life for his family. Colby (Brendan Gleeson) plays Chad's father, the community's patriarch and leader of the community's crime ring, who's seeking the opposite for Chad and his grandchildren. The Cutlers are loosely based of the real life Johnson family. Dubbed Britain's 'No.1 Crime Family' and the 'Traveller Corleone's', the family were subjects of 2005 Summer With the Johnson's which Trespass Against Us Writer Alastair Siddons had worked on as an assistant producer.
After spending time with the family during the making of the documentary, Siddon's saw the cinematic potential of the story and also saw how the traveller community were underrepresented in cinema and media in general and if they were, they were most often represented negatively. And this is one of the film's strengths. The film not only portrays Irish travellers sympathetically without an inch of prejudice or condescension, it also does not romanticise the crimes they commit or present a romanticised view of the traveller life. Instead, it presents a profound and fair study of traveller family life.
One of the ways the film manages to remain sympathetic is its leading performance from Michael Fassbender, in a return to British independent cinema which echoes his charismatic yet complicated turn in Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank. In other hands, Chad could have been an extremely unlikeable character (particularly his lack of remorse towards animal cruelty and human humiliation); however, Fassbender is utterly believable as a character torn between what he knows and what he knows is best, which never leaves the audience opposed to him. Brendan Gleeson is equally as great as his closed-minded father, as is Rory Kinnear as the police officer bent on getting Chad behind bars.
Thematically the film often comes across as quite muddled; with the film unsure whether it wants to be a crime drama or a family one. Whereas the scenes of action, in particular the many car chase scenes, are executed as well as any big budget Hollywood action film, and are as exciting, it's the film's much more quiet moments - the father and son relationship and the landscapes for instance, where the film really finds its feet.
With the subject matter, the film could have very easily fallen into the territory of simple social-realist style storytelling. However, the film's glowing and dynamic cinematography keeps the story fresh and is reminiscent of Shane Meadows' early work.
The score of Trespass Against Us, however, is the real surprise of the film. Composed by Tom Rowlands, half of Manchester's electronic duo The Chemical Brothers, it not only compliments the action scenes but also the rural moments too.
Book your ticket to Trespass Against Us here.