Cinema Review: Sightseers

DIR: Ben Wheatley • WRI: Amy Jump, Alice Lowe,  Steve Oram •PRO: Claire Jones, Nira Park Andrew Starke • DOP: Laurie Rose • ED: Robin Hill, Amy Jump, Ben Wheatley • DES: Jane Levick • CAST: Sara Stewart, Tony Way, Alice Lowe, Lucy Russell

Tina and Chris travel across the English countryside, visiting such sites as the Crich Tramway Museum, Fountains Abbey, the Keswick Pencil Museum and the Ribblehead Viaduct.  Their week-long holiday provides the basis for a darkly comic thriller, the pleasures of which far exceed those that such an itinerary might promise.

 

Actors and co-writers Alice Lowe (Tina) and Steve Oram (Chris) play with cinematic convention.  Shot with handheld cameras and with actors speaking in English regional accents, Sightseers appears as an exercise in British social realism before events take things in unexpected directions.

 

Three months into her relationship with Chris, Tina needs a break from her meddlesome mother Carol, who blames Tina for the death of her beloved dog Poppy, her ‘only friend’.  (Tina’s not a friend; she’s just a relative.)  Tina takes the trip to escape from the guilt Carol makes her feel.

 

A fellow sightseer at the tram museum discards an ice-cream wrapper, much to Chris’ chagrin. A fatal accident and a distressed phone call from Carol make for an inauspicious beginning, but Chris and Tina decide to continue anyway.  They meet other pleasure seekers along the way, and a typical caravan trip in genteel England becomes something quite different.

 

Chris and Tina seem comfortable in their relationship, and at odds with the rest of the world. Chris tells Tina that he’s taking a sabbatical from work and intends to write a book, inspired by their travels and seeing her as his muse. Events take a surprising course and test the couple’s relationship and how they see one another.

 

Ben Wheatley, directing his third feature, successfully balances the sympathetic aspects of Chris and Tina before their actions become reprehensible in kind, then by degree.  He does not shirk from showing the horrific effects of their decisions.  Taking apparently ordinary folk through a provincial setting, exploring their darker natures, providing unexpected (and many) laughs along the way, Wheatley matches the Coen brothers’ best work, certainly in terms of conception, if not in production values.

John Moran

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
88 mins
Sightseers is released on 30th November 2012

Sightseers – Official Website

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