Sightseers, the new film from director Ben Wheatley and producer Edgar Wright, is a pitch-black comedy that celebrates the often uncomfortably-tinged joys (and horrors) that come with spending an extended period of time with a new lover. One of the quickest ways to truly get to know a person is by going on a road trip with them and, in Sightseers, a couple’s trip through the scenic English countryside leads to self-discovery. Oh, and murder.
Alice Lowe and Steve Oram star in the film, from a script the two co-wrote. Alice is Tina, a mousy woman who has spent most of her life under the domineering thumb of her mother. After finally meeting a man she adores (and who seemingly adores her), Tina agrees to leave the nest for a week and embark on a roadtrip with Chris (Oram). Against her mother’s protests, the two set out for a trip through the country – with stops at such historical landmarks as the Crich Tramway Museum and the Keswick Pencil Museum.
It doesn’t take long for the trip to turn dark when Chris, while fuming about an unrepentant litterbug, accidently backs up over a pedestrian – crushing him with his caravan. With the first bloodstains on their trip (literally - the squished pedestrian left quite a mess when ground under the caravan’s wheels), the two try and make the best out of their vacation only to leave a continuously growing trail of bodies in their wake. As the two let their true damaged personalities begin to show, their general apathy towards the death and destruction their trip is causing leaves the two leisurely traveling down a path towards hell. The greatest hell, though, might just be their own company.
Alice Lowe and Steve Oran are wonderful as a despicable pair whose growing disregard toward the rest of humanity is both the glue keeping the pair together and the acid eating them from the inside. From petty jealousy, uncontrollable anger towards obnoxious braggarts and high-toned platitudes about environmentalism, it doesn’t take much to set the two off on a killing spree. Under Wheatley’s guidance, the unflinching depiction of the film’s violence is a stark contrast to the couple’s rather routine approach to murder.
The pair’s script is a slow-build comedy rich in stereotypically droll British wit. It takes a while for the film to reveal its true colors as a genre film – instead establishing itself first and foremost as a portrait of uncomfortable encounters. The film’s sense of the awkward and delicate tip-toing that comes early in a relationship is spot on – as is the (albeit exaggerated) drive all couples feel to connect in every possible level. It just so happens that for Chris and Tina, the easiest possible shared connection is their duel disregard to the sanctity of human life.
Sightseers is perhaps Ben Wheatley’s most accessible film. Hilarious, dark and unpredictable, the movie is an amazing accomplishment from a director who already has two very finely made films under his belt. Sightseers is another level for the director, though. Nearly every joke connects with the audience and the pacing of the film is spot-on. Although the film is slow to build and establish its true nature, it never drags. Alice Lowe and Steve Oram inhabit their characters and endow the roles with enough small joyful traits that – in the same way a good episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm or Seinfeld does – the movie gives audience the pleasure or rubbernecking on an increasingly entertaining spat between two lovers.
Sightseers opens this Friday at Vintage Park.