Lucky for beardy me and my Volvo driving missus we got to see blood and gore(tex) fest ‘Sightseers’ last night, followed by a Q&A with the very talented Director Ben Wheatley and the film’s brilliant Co-writer/star Steve Oram. As with all highly-anticipated British comedies there is always the very real risk of being let down by a deflatingly predictable plot combined with safe/stereotypical Hollywood friendly performances. I’m glad to report this most certainly isn’t the case with Sightseers; it has serious balls, big hairy ginger ones, covered in canine spittle. If you don’t know anything about the film it’s a road-trip through the North of England taken by a modern day Keith & Prudence, though this is more ‘Proper Fucking Nutters in May’ than Mike Leigh’s murder-less play. Think of the Midlands answer to Mickey & Mallory who have swapped their killing spree locations in iconic diners on Route 66 for tram museum car-parks just off the B5035. Experienced comedy actors Steve Oram and Alice Lowe play (apparently) quiet couple ‘Chris and Tina’ as they take to the road for their first time together alone much to the chagrin of Tina’s overbearing and domineering mother. Who is still blaming the accidental knitting-needle related demise of her beloved dog on Tina. “It was an accident” cries Tina as Chris’s Volvo estate and caravan starts to leave their drive “So were you!” spits back her matriarchal jailer.
Free from their suburban chains, the couple embark on a camp-side sexual odyssey (involving crotch less wool-wear) during which Chris also declares Tina the muse for the book he has decided to write during their passionate week away. However the cosiness soon gets thrown out of the (caravan) window as first Chris then Tina’s dark sides appear and steer the direction of the road trip directly into a ‘berghaus of horrors’ via a winning combination of graphically violence acts and killer character comedy. Direction, production and editing are all perfectly executed and both the main actors raise the quality of this film high above the parapet with their well honed skills for mixing casual murder with mirth so convincingly. In fact I haven’t been as simultaneously creeped out and amused by a couple since Rob Brydon and Julia Davis’s mesmeric performances in on of my favourite ever TV series ‘Human Remains’.
After the show Ben and Steve answered a number of questions from the audience and as with most things like this, the people unashamed to wave their hands in the air and ask an actual question tended to be the biggest berks there. Director Ben who reminded me of an Essex version of Orson Welles endeared himself to me no end with his non-nonsense, un-pretentious answers as did Steve with his all round genuine Brummie nice-guy-ness. Take for example the complete bulb who asked something along the lines of ‘In terms of the wardrobe, the clothes were all quite shabby and scruffy looking. Was this done on purpose and did you make Chris wear the red jacket to suggest his alpha male, primal urges?’ to which Ben (wearing a fairly well worn North Face fleece) replied ‘Not really it was more because with outdoor gear you tend to get comes in a pretty limited choice of colours, so it was either red or blue’. My favourite though was the div who got hold of the mic and asked Ben ‘All your films have scenes with fields in them, is this a conscience decision to involve fields?’ which was met with the pretty bemused reply of ‘only so much as all my other films have also featured people wearing shoes’. Later on I caught up with these audience members and threatened them until they said ‘I’d rather see Dave Lee Travis perform Macbeth‘ whilst I kicked them up and down the foyer.
Cynicism aside it was well worth hearing their thoughts on the film, providing a great insight into how Steve’s outdoors loving dad provided the inspiration for the character of Chris as well as helping to plan a detailed itinerary for their trip. Which Steve and Alice recce’d together in a caravan for an entire week prior to the shooting of the film. Steve didn’t give much away and kept saying it was still too painful to talk about despite hinting that at one point Alice had become one with nature and got naked in a field ‘pagan’ style. Ben also revealed his love of Alan Clark’s documentary style, particularly ‘Scum’ and ‘The Firm’ as well as Armando Ianucci’s output, who’s brilliant Time Trumpet programme Ben contributed to. Being a big fan of Kill List and now Sightseers I handed Mr Wheatley a copy of Proper Magazine on my way out, thinking he might enjoy the parallels of the psychotic looking hiker on our cover with his latest film. Then ideally discovering my genius via the mag and going on to make a Stockport-based film with me all about lads who are obsessed with talking about selvedge denim and expensive coats on message-boards who inadvertently start a Civil war. Though this may still happen I was mighty impressed by his reply to my tweet saying I enjoyed the show and hoping he’d enjoyed the mag:
SIGHTSEERS get’s its official UK release on the 30th of November, make sure you go and watch it because it’s fucking ace.