Watching Sightseers is like eating a marshmallow containing a shard of glass
How black is this black comedy? Well, in Spinal Tap - one of my favourite movies, Nigel Tufnel spews out one of the most famous lines 'It’s like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black'. This is that. Sightseers could be none more black. It’s The League of Gentlemen mixed with Natural Born Killers mixed with Reader’s Wives. Okay, so that doesn’t sound like a good sell but believe me, it works. That is to say, if a romantic comedy with Fred and Mae West works...
Tina, played by Alice Lowe, lives with her dementia-tempting mother who gives her daughter as much breathing space as a child’s sandwich bag. Time for a change then. Enter Chris, played by Steve Oram, riding on his white caravan to take Tina away on an adventure she’ll never forget.
TINA: 'Show me your world Chris!'
CHRIS: 'Well I thought I’d start with Crich Tram Museum.'
Brilliant. So off we go on a journey through the north’s caravanning ‘hot spots’ – which includes the Ribblehead Viaduct and The Keswick Pencil Museum. Unfortunately there’s quite literally a bump in the road at their first stop as Chris accidentally (or not) reverses his caravan and kills a litter bug with whom he recently had an impotent altercation. Whereas most normal people would do a complete u turn on this road of death, Chris and Alice plow on, full speed ahead – well, at a caravan restricted 60mph. After all, as Tina says 'I don’t want this to ruin our holiday'.
That’s the story – a lot of mundane muddled with a lot of murder. But the true strength of the movie lies in the chemistry and the characters that Alice Lowe and Steve Oram wrote for themselves. There’s such incredible detail in them which makes their relationship so believable and fun to watch. The dialogue seems snappy and real. Plus the scenes which they share with Tina’s mother leaves you wanting more.
Chris and Tina actually make quite a cute couple and through most of the movie you’re on their side. But from the start there’s an uncomfortable feeling of darkness brewing. There’s a malice hidden in those puffy exteriors. Like eating a marshmallow containing a shard of glass. You’re just waiting to be cut. When the violence does come, it comes hard, graphic and out of the blue. With shots of carnage lingering on screen a little longer than comfortable. But then nothing is really comfortable in this movie. Chris promises Tina a holiday that is a 'sexual odyssey'. Sounds good – but only if you imagine a sexual odyssey involving a ginger beard, knitted lingerie, grubby caravans & pot pourri. Lots of it.
Sight Seers gets the difficult balance right of melancholy, despair and laugh-out-loud funny that many black comedies strive for. A sequel definitely wouldn’t work. But Steve Oram and Alice Lowe created Chris and Tina for an unsuccessful TV pilot. And I just hope a TV Exec now gives it a second look because I could definitely watch these two do their thing every week. Who knew that caravanning could be so much fun?
Sightseers hits UK cinemas Friday November 30th