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Before donning the maroon cape of Magneto in the X-Men franchise, Michael Fassbender took the starring role in several naturalistic British indies, from the likes of Eden Lake, to Fish Tank to Steve McQueen’s Hunger. Returning back to where he honed his craft, again with a first-time filmmaker – he now collaborates with Adam Smith in Trespass Against Us.

Fassbender plays Chad Cutler, who lives amongst a family of travellers, situated in caravans, an constantly getting on the wrong side of the law, and in particular, the beleaguered P.C. Lovage (Rory Kinnear). With his wife Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal) and two young children to provide for, Chad wants out of this outlaw livelihood, but is left in a compromising position when his father, and head of the family Colby (Brendan Gleeson) manipulates his son’s future to keep him by his side, causing a fiction between the pair.

When leaving the two lead roles in the hands of actors of the calibre of Fassbender and Gleeson, it works not only as a stamp of quality on proceedings, but adds such a degree of nuance and subtlety, which enriches the layered dynamic between the two characters. Bonded, quite literally, by blood and equipped with an unwavering sense of pride and loyalty, this study of mankind is almost animalistic, the way we see the conflict ensue between opportunist youngsters against wily old-timers, vying to be patriarch in nature documentaries. There’s a high intensity, and violence bubbling under the surface throughout, with so much said without words – just the occasional glances made by Colby and his want-away son, that say so much more than dialogue could. Which, given the rather dodgy accents, is probably for the best. Father-son relationships are at the core of this tale too, as we also explore the way Chad is with his own son, Tyson – played with an impressive fervour and emotional depth by newcomer Georgie Smith.

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Taking place in a community seldom seen in the cinema – which, in itself makes for a compelling watch, Trespass Against Us maintains a somewhat simplistic, understated narrative, which does allow for the performances to flourish, as though taking on the form of a stage play, with just a mere handful of characters and mostly in the single setting of the land they live on. Conversely, and while beneficial for the most part, the lack of drama does prove detrimental too, as you crave a greater sense of closure in what is an underwhelming finale, with a pay-off not quite matching the intriguing set-up that preceded it.

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About Stefan Pape

Stefan Pape is a film critic and interviewer who spends most of his time in dark rooms, sipping on filter coffee and becoming perilously embroiled in the lives of others. He adores the work of Billy Wilder and Woody Allen, and won’t have a bad word said against Paul Giamatti.

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