Friday, December 13, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Sightseers (2013) ***½

NR, 88 min.
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writers: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Amy Jump
Starring: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Eileen Davies, Monica Dolan, Jonathan Aris, Richard Glover

“Sightseers” is so quintessentially British that it’s one of those movies you wonder if American audiences will get. “Get” is the right terminology, because it isn’t difficult to understand. Its plot is simple. The accents aren’t so think that subtitles are needed for American English speakers. But, it operates on a level of humor that is beyond us to some degree. American audiences rarely understand the humor of serial killers in our own movies, let alone those that take place in a foreign environment with cultural practices that are fairly unrecognizable to us.  But, if you can see past the grizzly and geographic details, there’s much to enjoy about “Sightseers”.

What “Sightseers” is really trying to convey is a love story. It’s a love story told by one of England’s rising young filmmakers, Ben Wheatley, who proved in his first film “Kill List” that he doesn’t know how to make a proper crime thriller either, and that’s why it was so good. There’s always something that a little off in Wheatley’s movies. “Kill List” was a story about a hitman whose line of work leads him to something akin to the island in “The Wicker Man”. In his current film, “A Field in England” (which has yet to make it to the States), he tells a period set story of retreating soldiers who find themselves sucked into a paranormal experience. In “Sightseers” he lets us experience young love through murder and all the other typical ups and downs of the process.

Tina lives a rather sheltered existence because of her controlling and overly demanding mother. She and her boyfriend, Chris, have planned a sightseeing trip through the country, although her mother doesn’t want her to go. I loved the scene when her mother is trying to contact her daughter through her emergency beacon, even staging herself at the bottom of the stairs as if she took a fall.

The mother doesn’t like Chris, even before she meets him. The guy seems a nice enough fellow, however; and the young couple embarks on their journey. Everything seems perfect to them until they encounter a man eating a cornetto on an historic trolley. He throws his wrapper on the floor and we see the first stirrings in Chris of what’s to come.

I won’t spoil it any more than I already have, but what works so well about this movie is how it never travels the conventional path. When a development arises the characters deal with it in their own unique manner and the plot seems to flow from the character’s choices rather than the characters choices being determined by the plot. And it is a love story. They are a real couple, unlike the ones you see in similar American endeavors, such as Bobcat Goldthwait’s “God Bless America”.  Their personalities aren’t perfect matches. They witness aspects of each other that they don’t like, but it’s rarely the aspects you’d expect. They want their love to work above all else, until… well, I’ll leave that one alone. Let’s just say, Hell hath no fury… and since you’re already going to hell… watch out!

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