Director: Ben Wheatley
Why would anyone in their right minds go caravanning for a holiday? Sleeping in a poky shed on wheels with unreliable facilities and all those annoying twits with bigger caravans swanning across the campsite? If this sounds familiar, Sightseers might just be the film for you, as Tina (Alice Lowe) and Chris (Steve Oram) indulge their hitherto hidden bloodlust on a sleepy traversal of the lovely northwest of England. Bonnie and Clyde it ain’t.
Lest this all sound a touch maudlin, Sightseers is first and foremost a comedy, and a frequently very funny one to boot. Tina is socially awkward and still lives with her mother (Eileen Davies), whilst Chris is a principled chap, barely keeping his temper down when his sensibilities are offended. This odd little yin and yang head off on their first holiday together, taking in such exotic sights as the Ribblehead Viaduct, Keswick Pencil Museum and Crich Tramway Museum. Though these places are very real, had Tina and Chris driven another few miles they’d probably have arrived at St. Kevin’s Stump and The Really Dark Caves. Indeed, Sightseers feels very much like Father Ted with a body count, with both character-based gags and pure farce in full view. Try as they might to enjoy themselves, run-ins with a variety of locals and tourists cause Chris’ blood to boil and theirs to spill. Meanwhile, Tina kidnaps a dog from one of Chris’ victims, suspicions are mounting and the strains are showing in Tina and Chris’ relationship. Odd as it sounds, you may well find yourself hoping they’ll stick together, if only to keep them from killing more people.
As loopy as they clearly are, Tina and Chris are very likable. Lowe and Oram bring a lot of sweetness to their on-screen couple. We may snort at Tina’s skills at knitting lingerie, but Chris seems to appreciate it, whilst she describes him as ‘a very sensitive lover’ (which he’s not). It also helps that the script (which Lowe and Oram wrote) surrounds our anti-heroes with complete tosspots. Whether it’s a litterbug or a snobby hillwalker complaining about dog muck, they all get what’s coming to them. The comedy is none-more-black, so be braced for a touch of nastiness. Even the doggy’s not safe!
In bringing Sightseers to the screen, Oram and Lowe made a canny move in getting Ben Wheatley to direct. Wheatley brought flashes of humour and humanity to the otherwise disturbing Kill List and, for the most part, he manages the tricky balance between laughs and murder on show here. Any weaknesses come from the plot, which is sometimes too happy to meander along until the next potential victim shows up. The arrival of an inventive cyclist (Richard Glover) and his sleeping-bag-caravan-thing does slow the pace, as Chris befriends him and Tina scoffs. That said, the one-man-caravan-thingy is a nifty idea. Let’s hope someone’s patented that.
The fact that it paints northern England as actually having sunshine makes Sightseers a film of note (No kidding. It looks simply lovely.). That said, it also has some belly laughs, a giddily nasty streak and sufficient evidence that caravanning is for the birds. Sightseers is not a five-star film, but it will leave you craving five-star accommodation on your next holiday.