Director(s): Ben Wheatley
Release Year: 2012
Will you truly follow the person you love all the way to the end of the earth? What about to the end of your lives? Or in the case of Sightseers, someone elses life? There is no question that Ben Wheatley is one of the best filmmakers to emerge in quite some time. His first feature, Down Terrace, staged an interfamilial relationship inside a mobster movie. His follow-up, the spectacular Kill List, dealt with guilt and anger about coming back from war and not being able to provide for a family but hidden within three different genres. With Wheatley’s latest, Sightseers, (his first movie not co-written by him) this outline doesn’t change but it does learn to take its time.
Tina (Alice Lowe) has grown tired of living with her overbearing mother. Thankfully her boyfriend, Chris (Steve Oram) has come to take her on a vacation in his caravan to help give her some space. Looking forward to her first trip with her boyfriend who she’s been with for an unspecified amount of time, they leave on what looks to be an exciting trip…until we hear Tainted Love play in the background and it just speaks volumes about the rest of the trip. Now whether you’ve sat through a Ben Wheatley film, you’ll immediately be able to tell what comes next…and it ain’t pretty.
What I personally love about Wheatley’s films is that they all elaborate on a person’s sense of self discovery and the ability to cope with what’s ahead. Sightseers is no different in this regard and still feels like any one of his other movies but slightly disconnected. The movie runs at a long 88 minutes and it really has no reason to. The movie jumps from beautiful location to brutal death and so on and so forth with little change of the actual story. This probably could have been cut in half and created a movie a little leaner and more powerful. Lowe’s character is the heart of the film but to say there is much of a heart at all would be an overstatement. She seems to act as more of a cipher to the atmosphere (a la Ryan Gosling in Drive) while Oram seems to have all the fun with his character just finding new and hilariously absurd ways to kill people.
This all being said, the leads have incredible chemistry together. Both stand-up comedians and co-writers on Sightseers, it feels like they’ve been in this relationship and it truly shows. Lowe’s passivity and Oram’s impulsive actions may come to some sort of truth but it’s a testament to their skills that this movie really holds together. Even after everything I’ve said, I can’t help but feel that there is something to love about the way everything unfolds and it’s beautiful ending. Probably one of the most doomed relationships to appear on screen in a long time, it’s great to see some humor imbued into the story while also giving us something truthful in the long haul. Sightseers skips the melodramatic and gets right to the truth.
While Sightseers is probably Wheatley’s weakest film thus far, it’s still better than a large majority of the films to have come out this year. This movie gathers life, death, love, sex and commitment all into to one nasty and drop dead (literally) funny ride. When and if this gets to a theatre close to you, check it out. You shall not be disappointed.