Trespass Against Us is one of the few British films set around the Irish Traveller community, and even rarer as its characters are portrayed sympathetically, albeit still as criminals. It’s the directorial debut of Adam Smith, who as far as I know has no relation to the Adam Smith the libertarians like who died in the 17th century and is on the £20 note. He came out of directing music videos, commercials and, most notably, some episodes of Doctor Who.
It’s a pretty standard father/son mob tale, with son Chad (Michael Fassbinder) wanting to get away from his life of crime but knowing he really can’t’, especially since he is basically illiterate. The father, Colby (Breden Gleeson), wants to keep the family traditions and has an iron-fisted grip on the family, he even convinces them the world is flat in one scene. He soon talks Chad into one final robbery, but Chad will have to decide if it’s the life he wants for him and his family. From the start the cops want to get the family done because their almost anarchistic life as outlaws in the countryside provokes the status quo.
Fassbinder and Gleeson are both exceptional actors, but I very quickly lost interest in their lives as the tone was so mishandled. It has broad comedic elements, and the film’s final moments end up seeming goofy–it just doesn’t have the dramatic payoff you are hoping for. As a viewer I’m on the side of the family and against the awful cops who want to disturb this family, which despite some casual robbing, are a solid family unit. Unfortunately, the film, like the characters, ends up going nowhere and therefore it falls flat.
It’s been compared to Shane Meadows’ work and that’s a just comparison, but it also shares the total unbalance of even his better films. Sean Harris plays yet another mentally unstable character—he has previously played both Ian Brady and Ian Curtis but he is completely unrecognisable here. Trespass Against Us might gain some sort of cult following down the line, and hopefully Adam Smith has better things in his future because he is clearly talented.