SIGHTSEERS. Starring Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Eileen Davies. Directed by Ben Wheatley. Rated MA 15+ (strong violence and sex scenes). 88 mins.
Let’s hope you don’t encounter sightseers like Chris and Tina when you are caravanning around Yorkshire and the Lakes District. You might not get home, especially if you get into Chris and Tina’s bad books, not a difficult thing to do at all.
This small budget black comedy is very black indeed, despite the outdoors locations and the eccentric tourist sites that the couple visit (tramway museum, pencil museum…). It was written by the leads who are also stand-up comics. The dialogue and the delivery, deadpanly ironic and simple, are very important.
Tina lives with her hypochondriac mum and looks to have few prospects in life. She was devoted to her dog Poppy – there is a flashback to a death scene which will mean some looking away aghast while others will burst out laughing. It is that kind of film. Mum is the kind who keeps ringing up during the trip to manipulate her daughter into coming home to look after her. Chris seems a jovial kind of bloke, eccentric interests certainly, but with a charming way as far as Tina is concerned. That is until he runs over a man.
Chris does not take to criticism kindly and senses others’ competitiveness (not his own) with deadly earnest. His opponents do not live to see the day.
Here is awful behaviour, conscienceless and cheery, presented as if Tina and Chris really have very few cares in the world – and it is easy to get rid of those. Which makes them all the creepier. In fact, Tina is becoming rather exhilarated by the disposals as the trip goes further north. And, especially, as they reach the end of their road and prepare for a culmination – which doesn’t quite work out as anticipated.
You have to be in the mood for this kind of thing, a relishing delight in really black comedy.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out December 26 2012.