There are movies that you accidentally end up seeing at the cinema (date night, the Bond film is sold out, the other choice a Kirk Cameron vehicle), the movies you happen upon on Netflix when you’re done pretending you like “Bojack Horseman”, and the art-house ones of which you make a mental note, usually recommended by the suspiciously confident intern at the office. Either way, you try to keep up.
And then there are the films that you innocently come across on cable on a Saturday night, like “Sightseers”, that you don’t mean to watch but your timing is bang on and so you get into it, then when it wraps up you look around that otherwise empty living room where you sit with your now mostly empty bottle of Shiraz and where throughout you were chuckling away but also audibly going “oh, noooooo”; you look about self-consciously, evaluating how much you actually enjoyed the film, and consequently how bad of a person that might make you. And you think about how great the dark, dark British comedies are and how they don’t have to have a feel-good message, and then in your head pops how much you hate “Love Actually” but you dismiss that, even as a palate cleanser, because it is out of context and the worst and not a Christmas movie no matter what it thinks, and you think “Sightseers”, this nothing little 2013 film, is so much better, and compares more with comedies that own their darkness, like “Heathers” or Danny Boyle’s “Shallow Grave”, and as a person who loves small movies that create a weird but not unfamiliar world, this was low, low budget money well spent on capturing a slice of life of rural England, and since the filmmakers just went there, not just to the worst tourist attractions but to the fringes of love, let’s call it, and stayed there, you liked it.
Then you think, who in your circle is the person that you call and say, check out this movie, it’s right up your alley. And then you don’t call anyone because if you don’t choose exactly right, you’ll be the girl who recommended the weird movie (and also, that Shiraz).
“Sightseers” is one of those films that you want to get a second opinion on, but need to share those thoughts with another, darkly like-minded individual who likes a good offbeat roadtrip rom-com – where the roadtrip is tedious, the rom is uncomfortable at best, and the com is not for everyone.
Let the weirdness commence.
Sharing his ideal holiday to see some of the great, obscure but quirky places in northern England and Scotland is Chris (Steve Oram), the fairly new boyfriend of Tina (Alice Lowe, writer of the film with Oram and Amy Jump). Not only is he driving his love to see, let’s say, the Pencil Museum, but he is getting her out of the house she shares with one of the most horrific mothers ever committed to film. Off they go, the lovebirds, in their caravan (Winnebago to us) for a little adventure. Tina is suffering guilt from a small accident she had a part in, Chris is tightly wound, and as you will soon see, they are both nuts. A dark comedy ensues.
Did I mention Edgar Wright is involved?
I said rom-com earlier but please, that was the wine talking. This is some dark, demented but relatively funny stuff. Hey, camper holidays can be tough on a couple. Chris really wants to impress Tina, it’s not his fault other people are annoying and get in the way. Tina wants to bedazzle Chris, especially seducing him with her handknitted erotic undies, it’s not her fault she is one of the most barely functional adults ever to possibly garner your sympathy. For a minute. Or not.
I went into this film blind, unaware of director Ben Wheatley’s resume (“Kill List” being the most high profile before this effort, currently the dark Jeremy Irons drama “High-Rise” which premiered at TIFF), or producer Edgar Wright’s involvement. Glad I did. After recoiling at the opening weirdness, I settled in to see what the two lead outcasts would get up to. And… liked it? Yes, no, yes. Yes. It was original and dark and I laughed out loud. Now that I think of it, I do know a few people who will enjoy this. Give it a watch, it might be you.
Available on Netflix US, and iTunes
A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.