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Film Review: Trespass Against Us, A Nuanced Examination of the Irish Underclass

Photograph courtesy of A24

Photograph courtesy of A24

My takeaway from Trespass Against Us, the feature film debut from veteran British TV director Adam Smith is that’s it’s exceedingly Irish. I’ll admit, I swoon a bit hearing Irish actors cut loose with their full-on brogue, after seeing them in role after role saddled with an American accents. Michael Fassbender plays Chad Cutler, who lives in a small mobile home encampment with his wife Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal) and two children, including young son Tyson (Georgie Smith), who is just old enough to start questioning what his dad and grandfather Colby (Brendan Gleeson) do for a living and whether he wants to be a part of it when he gets older.

As you might suspect, the family business is a bit of thievery, and Chad is the best getaway driver in the area, but he has grown tired of the game and knows that one day his luck is going to run out and he’ll eventually get caught by the police, represented here by the great Rory Kinnear. But every time Chad voices any sentiment that appears to run counter to his father, he gets accused of being a traitor to his albeit tainted bloodline. And when Colby catches on that Chad wants to leave the community and make a name for himself elsewhere, he suddenly books a risky job that the cops seem to know about almost as soon as it happens.

I don’t mean to make Trespass Against Us sounds like it’s plot heavy—it certainly isn’t. It feels that about 75 percent of it is just Irish folk talking about being Irish, what family means, how little they disregard what teachers, the government, or the police think or say. I’ve seen character studies of people like this before, but when you slot in such great actors, everything feels heightened and delightful in its defiance.

As a bit of a bonus, the car chase sequences are spectacular and completely unexpected in a film that achieves a high degree of intimacy. But for Chad, driving is an intimate act because he believes, ultimately, it will be that car that will take him and his family far from this broken-down campsite. To heighten the ferocity of the chases all the more, the high-velocity score comes courtesy of Tom Rowlands of The Chemical Brothers. When it comes down to it. Trespass Against Us turns into a battle for the soul of young Tyson, who has been skipping school and spending far too much time listening to his mildly insane grandfather, who has opinions on everything from the theory of evolution to whether the world is round or flat. I’ll give you three guesses which side of the debate he falls on both subjects. The film is a tad disjointed and confused about what it wants to be, but in the end, you’ll likely care a great deal about the fate of this family and whether escaping from one’s past is even a wise thing to wish for.

The film opens in the Chicago area exclusively in South Barrington at the AMC South Barrington 30. If you don’t want to trek it out to the burbs, you can rent it digitally from Amazon and iTunes.

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