Sunday 30 December 2012

Review: Sightseers

Year: 2012
Director: Ben Wheatley
Screenplay: Steve Oram, Alice Lowe, Amy Jump
Starring: Steve Oram, Alice Lowe

Synopsis is here:

In 1996; school disco halls everywhere were loud with the sounds of awkward shuffling and the heartfelt warbling of Gary Barlow and co. Before disbanding in 1996 (and reuniting in 2006), Take That released their cover of the Bee Gee's hit ballad "How deep is your love". The couple we follow within Ben Wheatley's Sightseers would have been around 16 at that point. I'm sure that you can imagine either of the two, sitting alone, mouthing the words. All the while, their friends (if any) were victims of cheeky gropes and similar tomfoolery.

Upon watching the film; I found myself asking: "Is anyone surprised that two people like this would find each other?" I certainly wasn't. Nor was I surprised. Due Tina and Chris being in such a young, developing relationship, their passion is what you call...intense.

Said intensity is key for a director like Wheatley, and perfect for a movie like Sighterseers, a film which, like Four Lions, revels in thorny issues for its comedy. It's Natural Born Killers (1996) by way of Dear Deirdre; gleefully wrapping it's lovers on the lam narrative around Fargo-style eccentricities. The film even inverts the impotency issues that Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967) delved into. It's not like neither character can articulate their lustful thoughts (just take a glimpse Tina's knitted, crotch-less panties), but there's a drollness in that while Clyde excelled in looting paper, Steve can barely place his thoughts down on any. Beatty's Clyde may not have been able to get it up, but you sense he may have had enough charm to write a book.

Literacy issues aside, Steve (a quietly sinister Oram) is a messy quagmire of lust, rage and loneliness, desperate to introduce Tina into his world of caravanning, local sights and premeditated murder over trivial incidents. Tina (a superbly comic Lowe), a withdrawn young woman, living in the palm of her controlling mother (a callback to Wheatley's 2009 film Down Terrace), seems to become more besotted by Steve due to his method madness. Is she intoxicated by the violence she's encountered? Or did the darkness just need to be awakened? At one point, Tina is insulted in a way that seems exaggerated at one point, but feels on point later on. We're never really sure about the two, other than their passion. Clues are laid, like Kill List (2011), Wheatley suggests things, but he never runs for an easy answer.

The holiday is often the test of the relationship and it is no different here. The relationship slowly degrades as their unstable personalities clash and circumstances close in. But Wheatley has coated the situation with such rich British idiosyncrasy that he manages to unlock mirth within the macabre. He toys with British politeness and tolerance in a way that reminds me of Serial Mom (1996), John Water's camp subversion of the suburban American Household. Sightseers's is angrier than that, and has more to comment on. The films cinematography is quick to highlight just how entrancing The Lake District can be, and yet it's is completely lost on these murderous characters. It is lost on us as well, as we're too busy indulging in their darkness. But there's the joke. We watch the observational comedy, smirk at the all so true moments with passersby and secretly delight at the couple’s murder spree and we forget how their intentions seemed good. 

What I love about Sightseers is just how passionate Chris and Tina are about themselves and what they do, even if it's completely immoral. The observations found in the script are not only infinitely quotable but often endearing, although; you would probably be a little more pensive with a Daily Mail reader. The film’s title, holds a certain irony to it, as the films climax suggests that the Chris and Tina themselves are "nice enough" to visit but not the type of people to stay with. They're the type of couple that is considered "just a bit off". The final decision made by the couple is sweet, humorous and yet haunting. It asks the question that Gary, Robbie and the rest of them were banging on about, back when we only had two lonely singleton teens. How deep is your love?