Sightseers - 2012
Director(s): Ben Wheatley
Writer(s): Alice Lowe, Steve Oram and Amy Jump
Cinematography by: Laurie Rose
Editor(s): Amy Jump, Ben Wheatley, and Robin Hill
Cast: Alice Lowe, Kenneth Hadley, Steve Oram, Monica Dolan, Jonathan Aris and Richard Lumsden
The last entry of my "deep" dive into British Cinema is Ben Wheatley's Sightseers - a film that took me entirely by surprise as it was a recommendation from Lon Harris on Twitter (I needed help with navigating the Criterion Channel). I did not look up anything on the film outside of where it was from and who the director/stars where - so once the story took a left turn, I was 100% onboard. Let's talk about it.
The story follows Chris (Oram), and Tina (Lowe), as they embark on a road trip through England. Chris is an aspiring writer and sees Tina as his muse, and Tina sees Chris as an escape from the clutches of her overprotective and controlling mother. During the trip, Chris confronts a man for not wanting to pick up the trash he dropped on the floor - feeling his anger bubbling up. Chris walks away at Tina's request. When backing out with his car, Chris runs over the man by "mistake," and it sets him and Tina down a path of no return.
Sightseers slowly build up towards the eventual reveal in a way that lulls the audience into a complete sense of confidence, "Oh I know where this film is going," and it pulls the rug right from under us. The switch from a corky comedy of an introverted woman coming out of her shell - to a British Bonny and Clyde (only far more violent) dark comedy smartly doesn't happen too fast, giving the audience time to adjust to their new experience. After the first murder, you almost think to yourself, oh ok that is the ONE murder of the film (as if you buy into his "mistake"), and by the time the second one comes around the audience is entirely on board (as disturbing as it sounds) laughing at the events, and their relationship. The break from right and wrong in both characters is fascinating, as rules and a sense of vengeance drive Chris - while Tina is driven by emotions (the connection of Chris and her being murderers) and the depraved satisfaction murdering provides.
Alice Lowe as Tina is fantastic, as she manages to come across as this manic pixie dream girl character, that by the end of the film is a complete sociopath - and at no time during this descent into the abyss did I stop laughing and finding her endearing. Steve Oram, on the other hand, has from the very beginning this dark essence behind his eyes, maybe in the way he smirks or how he treats Alice, that when he starts murdering people, it makes perfect sense. Director Ben Wheatley does a fantastic job at pacing the story as there is not a single dull moment in the runtime. Wheatley also utilizes the moments of gore to drive home their break from humanity, without feeling gratuitous - showcasing great comedic timing.
Sightseers is a dark comedy that hits the right balance between its dark themes of sex and violence, and its off-beat corky characters. Lowe and Oram make for the perfect dancing partners, in this Wheatley dance number that grabs your attention and never lets you go. I jokingly described it to a friend as the British Toxic Avenger, with better acting, directing, cinematography, special effect, editing, and script. Give it a shot if you are a fan of dark comedies.
Sightseers is Why I Love Movies.
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