Over the years, gypsies and travellers have had a bad press, often cited as being trouble wherever they settle.
They think they may have had it bad now, but it was a lot worse back in 1554, when Mary Queen of England passed the Egyptians Act, which made it illegal for gypsies and travellers to live in England. If found on English soil, they would have a month to leave, or be executed. And those found helping them in anyway would face a similar fate. So being told to move on or receiving a fine now doesn’t seem so bad by comparison.
Philip Stevens makes his directorial debut with this period film that focuses on a group of farmers putting themselves at risk by helping some Egyptian travellers leave the country.
1555 and David (Emmett J Scanlan) is the leader of a small group of salt farmers. You can tell he’s their leader as he’s the only one wearing shoes. The group are taking a huge risk in helping some Egyptians leave England by boat, as they aren’t exactly welcome anymore. Although a risky endeavour, the rewards outweigh the risk.
Things get complicated however when one of their group, Patience (Hannah Douglas), gets close with one of the Egyptians, which doesn’t go down at all well with David, who makes his feelings violently clear.
Although Stevens begins his film with the information about the Egyptians Act, it’s more a case of context than anything else. As it turns out, the real threat is from within the camp, with no sign of any official threat whatsoever.
Patience is the main protagonist of the film, one who suffers from a severe speech impediment, which sets her aside from the rest of the group as someone different. This obviously affects her ability to communicate, although she can sing like an angel, just like 2002’s Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates. If only she had the idea to be able to sing what she was put through, and that would possibly have saved her, and the audience, a whole lot of bother.
Although well shot, the film doesn’t really offer anything by way of a silver lining. David is most unpleasant, and his actions soon become overwhelming, with no resistance coming from any corner. He is a leader that rules by fear, which would make you wonder why the rest of the group hang around as long as they do. Particularly Patience who is the brunt of most of his attention, who may struggle vocally, but her legs work perfectly fine.
Performances are solid, especially from Douglas and Scanlan, and Stevens does well in creating the period visually, but the film is just far too bleak and brutal a watch, making it one to be endured rather than enjoyed.