Sightseers is an unusual film. But a very funny, shocking and entertaining one – though best avoided by Daily Mail readers.
It’s pretty hard to say what kind of film it is. Part Mike Leigh (especially the opening scenes), part shock-horror – with some very graphic gory and bloody scenes, part road-movie, part state of the nation commentary and part Carry on Camping!
This eclectic mix however, works, and gives the film an impressive sense of originality.
The core story however is not really original at all. The film is about a pair of new lovers, Chris and Tina, in their mid to late 30s, who go on a caravanning holiday around northern England and accidentally embark on a killing spree. This becomes a way of exorcising their frustrations with the people they meet, themselves and each other.
Their murderous ways also become a form of expression for the two very ordinary characters and a way of making their otherwise dull lives extraordinary. These are lonely people from grey suburban England with problem families and no futures.
But the transposition to northern England and its relentless drizzle, with the added very funny and very black humour make this a completely English film.
And a quirky one, with as many celebrations of England as there are criticisms of what has become of the social fabric of the country (is the 80s soundtrack which, although making the film feel dated, there to suggest the time when it all started to go wrong?).
These celebrations, apart from the wonderful scenery of Yorkshire and Cumbria, center on wacky tourist attractions such as the pencil museum and tram museums and geeky caravanning culture. Leading man Chris knows all the best pitches in the caravan parks they visit and is a big fan of England’s cultural heritage in all its bizarre manifestations.
But is this a comment on the need for Chris to substitute his own lack of meaning in life with these banal obsessions, or is it the mocking of such harmless passions by mainstream Britain which pushes Chris over the edge (along with class jealousy and an intolerance to littering)?
Tina’s journey through the film is perhaps the most profound. At first she appears to become a willing murderer simply to please Chris. But the power over others (including Chris) she starts to gain from these actions can almost be read as an expression of her gender related liberation.
It is odd (and very Mike Leigh like) how we become so affectionate towards these two pretty unlikable characters who seem oblivious to the immorality of murdering quite decent people.
And there is little to distinguish them from their victims. Chris in a funny line, claims one of his victims deserved to die for being a Daily Mail reader, but his and Tina’s narrow world view and own selfish priorities seem to be cut from that very rag.
While therefore this feels like a small British film, it clearly it has a lot to it. It is also well acted with very natural performances, tightly scripted and directed and has a great ending.
It is also simply a very funny film (though not for all tastes).