I enjoyed this film, although I understand why some critics have said they couldn’t see the point in making a story like this about such unlikeable people.
The people in question are a family of Irish itinerants living in a semi-permanent encampment of caravans somewhere in the west of England. They might once have been described as gypsies or tinkers, but we never hear those terms used here, possibly because the filmmakers wished to avoid upsetting those sub-cultures that are increasingly integrating into mainstream culture and might regard those terms as disparaging.
Certainly this family and their hangers-on are anti-social in the extreme. Patriarch Colby, played by the wonderful Brendan Gleeson, is passing on the family tradition of crime to his sons, one of whom is a moronic misfit and the other, Chad, played by the equally wonderful Michael Fassbender, is the heir apparent to this dubious heritage.
Chad is married to a woman who toes the family line when it comes to keeping shtum about criminal escapades and ill-gotten gains, but she wants a better future for her children.
This better future includes a basic education, something that has been denied to his own sons by Colby, a religiously superstitious bully who is so ignorant he thinks the earth is flat. Colby thinks education is a waste of time, and keeping his offspring illiterate is part of his plan to prevent defection to mainstream, law-abiding society.
There’s a battle of wills for influence over the 7-year-old grandson. When the film opens he’s being initiated into the joys of high-speed reckless driving, a skill he’ll need if he’s to become a good getaway man like his dad. How can school compete? Especially when he and his little sister are already in trouble for their language and attitude, about which they don’t and couldn’t know any better, not when they’ve been called little c**ts all their lives. It almost sounds like an endearment when applied to them, but not when directed outwards towards the police and other social authorities, reflexive hatred of whom is also part of Colby’s curriculum.
The constant foul language loses its shock value after a while and I found distraction in the language the family used when they weren’t mouthing obscenities. For instance, they often address one another as mush or musha, an Irish gaelic word which can be a term of endearment but is mainly used at the start of exclamatory sentences, as in ‘Musha would you look at that!’ They also say a word that sounds like gorjy, which I’ve never heard before and for which I can’t find a definition. From the context I presumed it was gaelic for that other term of abuse mentioned above.
I’ll give this one a pass mark, partly because I found the family’s sub-culture interesting even if they are a shivering shower of gorjies, as my old Dublin mate Gerry might have said.