From the director of Kill List (2011) comes an equally dark tale of love and murder.
Written by comedians Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, who also star in the film as the main couple at the centre of the story, Sightseers is darkly comic with a distinctively British feel. The couple in question are Chris and Tina, who are both rather socially inept and have planned a caravan holiday in Yorkshire so that Chris can show Tina his world. Tina is escaping from her controlling and dependent mother and Chris is absconding to the great outdoors in order to be at one with nature and find inspiration to write a book. However, after the couple have started their holiday and are enjoying each other and the various British attractions, such as a pencil museum, an accident happens that unleashes Chris’ murderous tendencies. Soon the couple are incorporating murder into their road trip at every occasion and their relationship and love for one another is tested to the limits.
Sightseers transforms the romantic comedy genre just as Kill List reinvented the British horror film. The black humour is spot on and you will no doubt laugh and cringe in equal measures. The acting is splendid, both characters deadpan to the end and providing the majority of the laughs from the film. Just like in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) you may find the central character (Tina) quite annoying to begin with, but if you are patient you do end up rooting for her. Indeed the film does have a Leigh feel to it in places but Wheatley still makes the film his own.
The idyllic British countryside is beautifully portrayed and the couple visit a variety of typically British attractions such as Crich Tramway Museum and Blue John Caves. The locations are depicted in a naturalistic way, letting the rugged splendour speak for itself. The film embraces Britishness and is in the same vein as Loach and Leigh but manages to feel fresh and new at the same time. The victims of the murderous couple are ignorant and rude people, litter bugs and even an inebriated bride-to-be, resulting in our main protagonists going on a moral mission to rid society of wrong-doers, the irony of this falling flat on our simple leads. This modern day Bonnie and Clyde deliver their blows in an uncensored manner meaning the film is definitely not for the faint hearted.
Popular music such as ‘Tainted Love’ and ‘The Power of Love’ punctuates the film adding a sense of nostalgia. The songs are clichéd but they work and the use of the latter song is even rather emotional and that is the surprising thing, even through the humour and the violence, emotions are still present. There are some particularly profound moments and the film successfully delves deeper than is comfortable in terms of the feelings and what these characters are going through. Credit must be given to the development of these characters which at first appear two dimensional but are soon shown to have much more to them.
Sightseers never glamorises violence and instead of bringing the couple closer together it does put a strain on their relationship. Fans of Kill List may be surprised by this almost jolly venture but do not despair, Wheatley’s signature exploration into darkness is there and there is even a scene featuring a pagan ritual. The film has a great ending which is a real game changer, putting the character’s whole morals into question.
Sightseers is a successful balance of macabre humour, great acting, extreme violence and thought-provoking emotional depth. Fans of Kill List may be slightly thrown by this but it should appeal to a wide audience due to the humour, just as long as you aren’t a Daily Mail reader! This is the new British rom-com and there are no chocolate box villages or Hugh Grant to be seen thankfully.
Sightseers is released in cinemas nationwide on 30th November 2012.
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writer: Steve Oram, Alice Lowe
Stars: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram and Eileen Davies
Runtime: 88 mins