Sightseers is the third film by exciting new British talent Ben Wheatley, who is already establishing himself as a masterful director and possibly the new Shane Meadows. However, to give Wheatley the credit for this film would be doing a disservice to the real creators and talent, Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, who wrote and star in the film as oddball lovers Chris and Tina. Wheatley’s direction and cinematography are absolutely beautiful and the film is visually pleasing but it is the story and characters crafted by Oram and Lowe that truly make this film a must-see.
Tina is a middle-aged woman who still lives with her cantankerous, possessive and manipulative mother. They are both still mourning the loss of beloved pet dog Poppy, the death of whom the mother blames entirely on Tina. When Tina meets Chris, a jolly nerd with a “ginger face”, he invites her on a caravanning holiday around Yorkshire’s premier tourist destinations (including Crich Tramway Museum, Ribblehead Viaduct and the Keswick Pencil Museum). Tina defies her controlling mother and heads off on the road with her new boyfriend. At their first destination a run in with an obnoxious litterer ends in his accidental death at the wheels of Chris’ caravan, something which much pleases Chris and leads to a spate of senseless, and hilarious, killings at the hands of the couple.
Apparently Oram and Lowe tried for years to get this idea made into a TV show but were constantly told that it was too dark and too violent. The pair eventually convinced friend Wheatley to help them turn their idea into a movie, and thank God they finally did because the end result is superb. The fact that they have had the idea and characters in their heads for a while is a real benefit because the script is so tight and perfectly written. The characters are wonderfully realised and obviously well-rehearsed that every look and line is spot on. The pair (and mother) are so good and truthful that it never occurs that these are actors playing characters; it seems like they’re just being themselves. This works well when the killings start, as the characters are so likeable and seemingly unthreatening that we can relate and sympathise with them and their actions and almost will them along.
The film is so brilliantly British it’s almost twee. The love story between Chris and Tina is very realistic and relatable; all arguments, tiffs and naff sweet-nothings ring true. This sweet and relatable love story is brilliantly interspersed with moments of killing; gore and violence always played for comedic value but nevertheless shocking and stomach-turning. Half way through the film the critic in me did wonder where this was all going and if it was building to anything. There is a lack of drama or tension within the film. You’re never concerned that they’re going to get caught or that they will be found out because these issues are never addressed. The different locations and killings are almost episodic rather than actually leading anywhere. However, a scene between our two lovable misanthropes in a restaurant confirmed to me that these issues simply don’t matter; the script and characters are so brilliant that it never wears thin. I just wanted to see more and more of the interaction between the two leads; sometimes touching, always hilarious. The ending seems to be heading in the natural direction that it’s expected to but the final shot is another beautifully judged and darkly hilarious shock.
This really is one of the best films I’ve seen all year and probably the best comedy (British or otherwise) since Four Lions. Fans of cult British TV series’ The League of Gentlemen and Nighty Night will adore it. This film confirms Ben Wheatley as Britain’s most exciting and talented new director and is my favourite of his films so far. If there’s any justice Sightseers will shoot Steve Oram and Alice Lowe to comedy stardom because I’m already excited about whatever they do next.