Oh boy, this is a hard one to review. On the one hand I really want to tell you all just how brilliant a film Sightseers is but in order to do so I will need to spoil some details of the plot. If you don’t want Sightseers to be spoilt then my quick verdict is that Sightseers is the best black comedy to come along since Four Lions and it is a black comedy in every way. It is both laugh out loud hilarious and really darkly dramatic at points. If you are a fan of black comedy in any way then you should go out and see Sightseers. So now onto my full review of the film, again don’t read on if you don’t want the film spoilt for you.
Starting of with the plot and concept of the film, it’s about a couple, Tina and Chris, played by Alice Lowe and Steve Oram respectively, going around the British countryside on a caravanning holiday to such attractions as the Crich Tram Museum and the Keswick Pencil Museum (luxury locations, I know) and ending up murdering numerous people along the way. A great thing about this plot is that it is uniquely British, you could never see this film being made in America because of how the film just fits with Britain. The plot also allows for some great character exploration of these two people as you know that they are insane but there is a question in the minds of the audience as to who the more insane one is and this question keeps coming up even after the end of the film.
The main way in which this premise works is due to the brilliant performances by Lowe and Oram. These two have an incredible chemistry together and you can tell that they really get the mindset of these characters, which isn’t surprising considering that they wrote the film and have been developing these characters for years. The really sympathetic performances from them turn characters who you really should hate into one of the best dysfunctional couples to come along in recent years. You really feel for these characters as they go through what is essentially a psychological breakdown and you really get the feeling that neither of them knows what is going to happen next and you really get a feel for the psychological issues of these characters, especially through Lowe’s performance as Tina. If you want to see more from these actors, Oram has done some work on The Mighty Boosh and Lowe was one of the leads in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and is one of the ensemble in the incredible series Horrible Histories (seriously if you haven’t heard of Horrible Histories before do yourself a favour and watch some of this series on YouTube). The performances by Oram and Lowe are really the heart of the film and provide a great contrast to their actions.
Speaking about their actions, this is the real meat of the film. Now this film was directed by Ben Wheatley, whose previous film was the horror film Kill List, said to be one of the most disturbing horror films in recent years. With this expertise in handling horrific scenarios, the murder scenes in Sightseers are appropriately gruesome and nasty but mixed with this is some great comedy. The murders are heavily exaggerated and some of the moments during the murders and the decisions made by Wheatley help lend an overtly comic tone to the horrific actions of the film. The best example of this comes with a murder early on in the film which is shown with a reading of the And Did Those Feet in Ancient Times by William Blake (better known as the hymn Jerusalem). This and the subsequent justification makes this my favourite scene in the film.
Throughout the film, you get the feeling that everyone involved knows how inherently ridiculous the whole premise of the film is and they both have fun with it and make it very plausible for the audience. They even introduce characters known for one main comedic feature and then get you to really like them, the best example being the brilliant character of Martin whose whole character is defined by his invention (which you cannot miss) and yet you really like him by the end of the film. There are little touches like this throughout the film which give it a very unique feel.
However, this is a full on black comedy and everyone involved takes full advantage of it. From brilliant comedic moments (one of which involves a dog and some needles) comes incredibly powerful dramatic moments (the dog/needle scene provides the character of Tina with really powerful depth and is what shapes her character) and this comes best with the ending. Now I will not spoil the ending of the film, it really is something you need to see for yourself, but I will tell you that has some really funny moments and some real gut-punching dramatic moments showing just how dark events like this really can be.
Overall, this is a brilliant British film. It isn’t for the faint of heart and if you are a Daily Mail you are almost certain to hate it but I do recommend that, if you can find a screening, you go out and watch Sightseers. It is one of the best black comedies to come around in a long time.
My Rating: 4.5/5