Never, ever underestimate the power of the open road – it does things to a person to release their inner being, good or bad. Ben Wheatley’s black comedy of hilarious proportions, Sightseers, about a couple who caravan around Northern Britain’s more unusual sights with deadly consequences is full of creepiness, delicious surprises, shocks and irony.
It has that unique Brit comedy quality; finding humour in the bleakest of situations, delivered with deadpan precision. As with any ‘road movie’, the fun is also in the wonder at where the travellers will end up? Will lessons be learnt? Will it all be worth it? Ever thought of campers as an oddball bunch that shirks off far-flung foreign holidays in favour of a dreary UK break? Sightseers does little for the image but will have you thinking twice about messing with that slow trailer on the motorway.
Writers Alice Lowe and Steve Oram play Tina and Chris, a newly united couple from the Midlands who plan a week-long break to such places as Ribblehead Viaduct in North Yorkshire and the Keswick Pencil Museum in the Lake District. Dowdy thirtysomething Tina lives with her obtuse mother whom morns the loss of her dog after an accident instigated by her downtrodden daughter. Chris who believes the world never gives him a break offers Tina some chance of happiness, before being left on the shelf for good. Along the way, a freak accident charts a new course on the couple’s journey, leading to all kinds of misdemeanours and a questioning of Tina and Chris’s true personalities.
Lowe and Oram’s pin-sharp writing is sometimes so brilliant that a lot of the observational humour associated with it demands a second viewing to capture all the punchlines and the nuances with which it’s delivered. This film has elements of the ridiculous to it – like Carry On Camping (there are skimpy garments involved) – but with sinister undertones, moving effortlessly between farce and gravity. What is far more intriguing is the couple’s warped justification to their acts that challenges deep-hidden desires in all of us to put rights wrong – kind of an extreme social experiment explored on film, so to speak. This dark comedy would also not work without that time-old Brit institution of class that features heavily in the characters’ thinking and being.
Wheatley makes sure that all the acts the couple are involved in are not gratuitous but have some misguided significance in Tina and Chris’s own little existence, even trying to appeal to the viewer’s sense of truth. Sometimes things get quite graphic – more so than an exploding bomber in Four Lions, a Brit comedy in a similar vein; so be prepared for some grizzly moments as it’s not for the faint-hearted. Sightseers is certainly another unique piece of Brit filmmaking that’s definitely worth a look for those wanting something new to sample this week at the box office. Both naught and nice, it’s an immensely satisfying watch.