Sightseers is a very English film. It is full of awkward silences, anger at littering, class disputes, yuppies, long country walks, beautifully shot landscapes, places to visit that sound incredibly boring, loud hen nights, guilt, store bought pasta sauces, conversations about injection molding for plastics, kitsch, frustration, discrimination against gingers, caravan park-based road rage, rain and knitting. It is essentially England: The Movie.
The movie follows the first holiday of new couple (they recently met at a capoeira class) Tina and Chris. They have a rip-roaring country tour planned with stops at such breath-taking sites as the Cumberland Pencil Museum and the Ribblehead Viaduct. This may come across as me mocking it but I’ve actually been to the viaduct and it was amazing.
They are a pair of sensible, boring people who has decided to engage in an ‘erotic odyssey’ in Chris’ caravan so that Chris can write his book (with Tina as an overenthusiastic and confused muse). Tina hopes to escape her over-bearing mother who is still in mourning for the death of her beloved dog, Poppy. (Important Spoiler: Poppy’s death scene should have won someone an Oscar. I don’t know whom, but someone).
It is hard to write about this movie without giving away too much, but suffice to say the trip takes a dark turn and gradually the erotic odyssey (part of which involves knitting lingerie and a bowl of potpourri) is sidelined for someone a little more murderous.
This is an incredibly funny movie and the humour is both bone dry and pitch black. Alice Lowe, who plays Tina, is an incredibly gifted comedian who delivers the most absurd lines with such straight faced conviction that it takes a second to realise that a joke’s been said. If you are looking for more of the same from Lowe then I suggest tracking down Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place (available on iTunes) which also contains some early work from Richard Ayoade (both acting and directing).
Director Ben Wheatley, who is on a stellar run of great films (and Doctor Who episodes), shoots the hell out of this movie. The English countryside is rendered in massive, gorgeous detail whether it’s sunny, foggy, rainy, or blood-soaked. The scenes of our ‘heroes’ walking along the marshes and the fields with the rolling hills all around them could serve as a tourist advert for the Yorkshire countryside, so long as the Yorkshire tourism board avoid mention of the sex and violence that occurs all around these bits of the film. The script, written by the two leads, does well to make us sympathise with the two protagonists by crafting antagonists that we can all dislike (litterers, posh knobs) and does such a good job of this that when the antagonists aren’t really deserving of anything (bride-to-be, random jogger) we are still, somehow, rooting for Tina and Chris.
An interesting criticism I have heard about Ben Wheatley is that he doesn’t know how to end his movies. I think that is straight up bullshit. The ending of this movie is one of my favourites. The music (Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood), the weird stares straight into the camera and the final few seconds before the smash cut to credits. Sheer perfection.
If you haven’t seen this movie, track it down, it is worth your time, and if it makes you want to watch more Ben Wheatley then my work here is done.