Trespass Against Us (2016)
Written by Alastair Siddons
Directed by Adam Smith
Chad Cutler is part of a caravan community in the English West Country. This collection of people living on the fringes of society is overseen by Chad’s domineering father Colby who has refused his son’s urges to move his family away from this rural waste. Instead, Colby recruits Chad into breaking into and robbing a prominent local politician’s house. Chad is a skilled driver, and so he manages to evade the police who know the culprits but don’t have the proof to apprehend them. Tensions increase between father and son as attention is drawn to their caravan and Chad’s wife plans to leave with the children.
Trespass Against Us has lots of interesting components that amount to nothing by the film’s conclusion. An underfed plot undercuts every instance where there could be a powerful confrontation between characters who have had their relationships strained over the movie. This is most painful when it comes to Chad and Colby, the centerpiece of the entire picture. Their final scene together diffuses all the possible conflict with Chad essentially letting his dad off with a chuckle when it’s obvious his father is the reason he is in so thick with a lifestyle that will ultimately fragment his family and keep him from his children.
The West Country is a setting I don’t see very often in cinema so right away I was hooked to explore this landscape and these people. The language is incredibly specific to this region and this community, so there is a hurdle in deciphering what’s going on, but it’s not overly complicated. It adds flavor to the story. I can’t speak to the authenticity of the dialogue and accents, but reviews I have read do mention that the style of speech presented in the movie isn’t entirely accurate. It still feels like it was made by a writer and director that have experience in this region.
Where the film showcases scene details, one bit I recall of Fassbender using a cow to hide from infrared police helicopter cameras comes to mind, it doesn’t satisfyingly build the world. I am not too fond of movies that handhold me through painting the setting, but I would like some more meat on the bones of a father-son situation that feels potentially volatile. There’s some wonderfully tense tug of war between Colby, Chad, and Tyson, Chad’s son but this never leads a satisfying conclusion.
An argument might be made that this is a slice of life movie, but that is undercut by the focus on the criminal and melodramatic elements. If this was slice of life it failed to be as tonally muted as something like that would be, or even episodic. Instead, we are led to believe that this is the story of a critical moment in the lives of these people, a turning point where Colby is either abandoned or ruined, or it happens to his son. None of the relationships are resolved, and the conflict between Chad and his wife felt like it had to be addressed or the ending would be meaningless. A strange series of misfires make up this A24 movie that had such possibilities.