SXSW Film Review:
Us and Them
by Trish Connelly
A timely film in our current political wake, Us and Them serves as a cathartic viewing between the marginalized working class and the wealthy elite. With the use of flashbacks and screen title cards, Us and Them plays out in a stream-of-consciousness storyline with Danny (Jack Roth) playing leader alongside his blue-collared friends Tommy (Andrew Tiernan) and Sean (Daniel Kendrick), holding a prestigious banker’s family hostage in a continuous gamble of who will get tormented next in order to serve them a lesson and record the entire stunt on video to release to the wider public in the hopes of starting a class revolution. Danny’s plan unravels and backfires on him as Tommy and Sean gradually lose loyalty and staged events don’t take place quite as arranged.
Director Joe Martin no doubt pulls influence from Michael Haneke’s 2007 film Funny Games as well as Quentin Tarentino in regards to camerawork and Danny’s performance strikes as reminiscent of his father Tim Roth’s role in Reservoir Dogs. Combining aspects of thriller, horror and comedy, Us and Them is a relevant take on the blue collared class’ clash with the elite one percent. Pulling out a roulette wheel to predict the eventual outcome of the family held hostage symbolizes the gambling nature of Danny’s actions, resigned to taking wild chances since in his mind things can’t get any worse than they already are. Internal monologues and quipping speeches drive the frustrations of Danny’s “Lost Generation”; the consistent gentrification taking place, a lifetime supply of food banks and paying rent and the unchanging signs of their immediate exclusion within their society. Throughout the course of the film Danny and wealthy father Conrad (Tim Bentinck) are in dispute with each other, Conrad labeling Danny and his friends as terrorists and Danny remarking in return that it all boils down to one’s point of view. Us and Them does an excellent job of building tension followed by comic relief, thanks in part to the later revelations and holes rooted in Danny’s scheming course of action. The film’s soundtrack bounces between classical Bach and Mozart pieces representing the wealthy and minimal punchy punk tracks by political duo Sleaford Mods defining Danny’s lower and middle class mindset. While Us and Them doesn’t necessarily have the audience rooting from Danny and his gang, it successfully portrays the hypocrisies and complications embedded in our current political class systems along with the disparities within them as well.
Trish Connelly is the Austin-based guru who does booking and promoting at Cheer Up Charlies under The Nothing Song. She’s always down to collaborate and plan a show or event in town. She’s an expert with mixtapes (for all musicians out there you’ll want to send her your stuff!), and making connections with the cool kids. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.