Thursday, 23 January 2014

Sightseers (2012)

If there's one thing you can say about Ben Wheatley it's that he's an interesting, and pretty fearless, director. Moving between genres with ease, although most of his movies certainly have elements that comfortably sit within the realm of horror, he has established himself over the past few years as someone always worth keeping an eye on. Strangely enough, I've always seemed to slightly disagree with people over his movies, tending to enjoy them without loving them, but I would always recommend him to people seeking out something a bit different from the norm.

Sightseers is, as you might suspect, a bit different from the norm. It's a very British version of Badlands, with any ruminations on the thin line between notoriety and fame replaced by items of knitwear and . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . caravans. Alice Lowe and Steve Oram are Tina and Chris, a couple who are very much in love. It's been a bit of a whirlwind romance, but Tina and Chris start off the movie secure in the knowledge that their love is strong. And Tina is very keen to get away from her manipulative mother (Eileen Davies). Once they're on the road and enjoying their holiday, it's not long until the fun is overshadowed by some unexpected death. Yes, a tragic accident looks as if it might spoil things for the holiday, but it turns out to be just the beginning. Chris has a bit of a habit of leaving corpses in his wake, and Tina isn't as shocked by it as she should be.

The best thing about Sightseers is the script, from the two main stars (with additional material by Amy Jump). It's not a consistently great piece of work, but almost every scene has at least one great one-liner, even amongst the darkest moments. The other big plus for the movie is the acting, with Oram and Lowe just delightful from start to finish. Eileen Davies also does some great work in her supporting role, and there are solid performances from Jonathan Aris, Monica Dolan, Richard Glover and Richard Lumsden AKA potential victims, one and all.

Unfortunately, and I seem to be in a minority as few others have been bothered by this, the movie is undermined by one big oversight. The fact is that Chris and Tina are rarely ever justified in their actions. Okay, okay, I get that murder is never justified, but when a movie asks you to accompany people who may end up acting a little bit psycho - understatement - then that journey is always easier when there's a teeny tiny bit of wish-fulfilment added to the mix.

The fact that there is no such moral muddying of the waters here is, most likely, a very deliberate thing, and Lowe and Oram deserve even more praise, in some ways, for still making the characters two people that viewers try to keep liking, but it's an ultimately unsatisfying journey, especially during the middle of the movie.

Sightseers is very funny, it's thought-provoking, and it's never boring, but it's also not as good as it could have been. Although there are many people who will be quick to disagree with me.


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