Wednesday 26 April 2017

Father and son battle it out for family's soul

* Trespass Against Us (15A, 99mins), 3 Stars
* Certain Women (12A, 107mins), 4 Stars
* The Viceroy's House (12A, 016mins), 3 Stars
* Tomato Red (No Cert, 112mins), 2 Stars

Family business: Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson in Trespass Against Us
Family business: Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson in Trespass Against Us

Paul Whitington

In the opening scenes of Trespass Against Us, a laughing English gypsy flouts a thousand health and safety rules while careering around a field in a speeding car driven by his nine-year-old son. Despite his questionable approach to safe driving, Chad (Michael Fassbender) is determined that his kids get a proper education. This displeases his dad Colby (Brendan Gleeson), the tribe's bombastic king, who wants nothing to do with education, or the state.

This family dispute takes place against a backdrop of crime, as Colby bullies Chad into taking on a spectacular raid at a huge country house. It turns out to be the home of the Lord Chief Justice, and soon Chad has half the Gloucestershire constabulary on his tail. There are some decent car chases, and Messrs Gleeson and Fassbender are too good to squander the powerful scenes they share. But overall Adam Smith's film feels a little contrived, and fails to capitalise on its promising premise.

Kelly Reichardt is not for everyone. Her distaste for melodrama and sometimes funereal pacing make her films a hard slog for the uninitiated, but I loved her elegiac 2008 film Wendy and Lucy, and Certain Women explores similar territory. Based on a series of short stories, this bleak, lyrical and occasionally humorous drama explores the barely connected lives of four Montana women.

Small-town lawyer Laura Wells (Laura Dern) gets dragged into an armed siege when an embittered client (Jared Harris) takes an office security guard hostage. Laura's having an affair with a married man called Ryan (James LeGros), whose indiscretion is explained when we meet his frosty, nitpicking wife, Gina (Michelle Williams). Meanwhile, a lonely Native American horse rancher (Lily Gladstone) falls in love with her teacher (Kristen Stewart) when she takes an adult education class. All the above are more or less doomed in a film that's so beautiful to look at and poetically paced that it somehow fails to depress you.

Gurinda Chandha's grandparents survived the chaotic and bloody partition of India in 1947, and as you'd expect her historical drama The Viceroy's House takes a rather jaundiced view of Britain's role in this disastrous imperial uncoupling. Lord Mountbatten is the hero of the piece, portrayed with bluff good humour by Hugh Bonneville as an honest broker surrounded by double-dealing civil servants who are playing a much more venal game. A slightly miscast Gillian Anderson plays his starchy wife, and local players like Gandhi, Nehru and Jinna all have major roles in a drama that takes on the huge task of describing the messy end of the Raj. It's nice to look at and surprisingly informative.

Juanita Wilson's Tomato Red is set among southern America's disenfranchised underclass, and stars the handsome but rather lifeless Jake Weary as Sammy, a petty criminal from a broken home.

He's breaking into a mansion one night when he meets Jason and Jamalee (Nick Roux, Julia Garner), a couple of delinquent siblings who offer him a place to stay. He follows them to a dusty trailer park where he meets their sassy mother, Bev (Anna Friel).

Handsomely photographed, problematically paced, Tomato Red looks good but somehow feels inauthentic, and the characters don't really seem to belong to the bleak landscape they inhabit.

Friel blasts the younger players off the screen with her charismatic portrayal of a fading southern belle. Only she convinces.

Irish Independent

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