With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a punch in the nose, launching at full speed and never letting up. It's a funny and edgy portrait of three generations of a family stuck in a cycle of criminality and ignorance. While writer Alastair Siddons and director Adam Smith kind of lose the plot along the way, at least they aren't interested in preaching at us. Instead they create a group of unforgettable characters in a seriously messy situation.
The leader of the family is the patriarch Colby (Brendan Gleeson), who rules the community of caravans with a macho smirk and ignores the law as if it's still the good old days. His son Chad (Michael Fassbender) never learned to read, but wants his children (Georgie Smith and Kacie Anderson) to go to school. Colby thinks that's ridiculous, preferring to educate the kids by taking them along on badly planned robberies. Chad's wife Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal) wants out of this situation even more than Chad does, and she's increasingly annoyed that Colby is putting their children in danger. Will Chad have the nerve to stand up to his imperious dad?
Miraculously, the actors underplay these larger-than-life characters, creating eerily realistic, charming people whose clashes are a direct result of the changing world around them. Fassbender and Gleeson bring terrific detail to their roles and then spark off each other with such power that we don't know quite where to look. It's utterly riveting, drawing out personal grit along with darker themes. And it's not surprising that other characters are less fleshed-out. Marshal is most impressive in the scenes in which the seriously tough Kelly locks horns with Colby. And a couple of side characters register nicely: Rory Kinnear as a beleaguered cop trying to get the drop on this gang and Sean Harris as a mentally unstable family member.
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Chad Cutler is an Irish traveller who entered a life of crime at a young age, following in the footsteps of his father before him, Colby. Now that his own son Tyson is growing up, he wants to show him the ropes. Teaching him to drive a car through the fields is one thing, though, and he's starting to realise that introducing him into a world of police chases and robberies is very much another. Chad is becoming disillusioned with the lifestyle with which his family is accustomed, and wants to find a new path for both himself and his child. While his mother Kelly is supportive of his feelings, she and everyone else knows that Colby won't hear anything about it. He needs to find a way to sever ties with his father, without unleashing hell on his own family.
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Marie (Barden) is a 15-year-old loner who has an unnatural interest in death.
She regularly steals rabbits from the snares of her loner neighbour Filthy (Curran), to give them a proper burial. And her curiosity takes a dark turn when Filthy's young son Sean dies suddenly while she's babysitting. After the initial shock, she starts to feel that is communicating with Sean beyond the grave. Meanwhile, her mother (Marshal) is frantically redecorating their house, while her best friend (Henshaw) has grown tired of her morbid obsession.
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George (Damon) has a gift: he can see into the afterlife and help people communicate with their lost loved ones. But he feels it's more like a curse.
Meanwhile in Paris, star journalist Marie (De France) has just recovered from a near-death experience. Instead of working on her planned biography of Mitterand, she instead starts investigating why accounts of after-death experiences are so shunned. And in London, pre-teen Marcus is looking for ways to communicate with recently deceased twin (they're played by Frankie and George McLaren).
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Stevie (Bonar) is a slightly nerdy call-centre worker who really wants to be a singer-guitarist in a band with his eccentric drummer pal Neil (Baynton). They invite another guitarist, Billy (Bew), join them, along with his bass-playing friend Emily (Marshal). And after discovering that they work well together, they make a demo and book a few gigs. But will they ever make enough money to give up their day jobs? And how will Stevie cope with the fact that he's falling for Emily, who clearly needs to dump her obnoxious boyfriend (Maythan)?
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