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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Saturday, April 19, 2014 - Edition No 893 

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SIGHTSEERS

SYNOPSIS:
In the wake of her beloved puppy's accidental death and still feeling guilty about it, Tina (Alice Lowe) is going away with a new man - Chris (Tony Way). Despite her sourpuss mother's (Eileen Davies) disapproval. They plan a short holiday together, caravan touring through the beautiful English countryside and famous tourist spots, museums, abbeys, that sort of thing. But deep seated resentments and intolerance pops up and after they accidentally kill an annoying tourist, they soon kill again. And again.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The sheer and utter Englishness of the characters and the circumstances in which they become serial killers has a certain understated Gothic appeal in this story of two new lovers on the road. It begins with a Coronation Street scene in Tina's (Alice Lowe) home, with her mum, a brittle and sour woman superbly played by Eileen Davies, grieving over their pet dog Poppy, who died in a bizarre accident - for which her mum holds Tina responsible.

The dog's accidental death is mirrored with the accidental killing of an irritating litterbug they meet on their first holiday stop. All of these moments are beautifully understated yet black. It dawns on Chris that getting rid of irritating people is a handy way of stopping them irritating him. The escalation is gentle and the relationship between Tony and Chris is built up of conversations as well as playful sex and an air of carefree holiday making. It's this setting that sets the film apart from others in its genre.

TV and film maker Ben Wheatley has made black comedies before (eg Down Terrace, 2009 and Kill List, 2011), in fact he seems to specialise in them, having won or been nominated for several awards. Wheatley certainly gets the tone right and maintains it - a low-wattage atmos occasionally splattered with blood - his signature is the way his characters absorb, rationalise (a dead man give off no greenhouse gas omissions, so murder is 'green') and casually adopt killing as the standard response to aggravation of any kind.

The film is not only black in a comedic way, it is also grounded in bleak drama, such as the broken relationship between mother and daughter, as well as the obvious lack of stable relationships in Tina's life, which we eventually learn is probably the result of a character flaw.

Although it's short, it still suffers from a few saggy moments half way through, and the ending is a challenge - but for those who are fans of the genre, that is probably a plus.

Review by Louise Keller:
Tantalisingly macabre, this black romcom about a couple whose erotic odyssey on their caravan holiday of Yorkshire's historic sites turns into a road trip punctuated with murders, offers the unexpected and some grim laughs. It's the first screenplay for actors Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, who embody the unlikely couple and find in each other a sympathetic penchant for a similar bent. I'm a fan of black comedy and there's something quite appealing about the odd-ball characterisations of Chris (Oram) and Tina (Lowe) whose intimate getting-to-know each other exceeds even their own expectations. It's funny in a black way, and it's credit to the film that as we get to understand the way Chris and Tina think, we become complicit to their shocking murderous acts.

When the film begins, we see framed photos of a cute little white dog - obviously an adored pet. But as we quickly learn, Puppy, as the little terrier was named, met with an untimely death and Tina's ailing mother Carol (Eileen Davies) is quick to call her daughter 'Murderer'! 'I don't like you,' Carol tells Chris, when he picks up Tina as they embark on their holiday together. He says he's writing a book to find his voice and wants her to be his muse to resolve his 'creative constipation'.

The first indication of anything unusual about Chris comes when he loses control as a stranger drops an ice-cream wrapper whilst on a historic tram tour. The shot in the side rear mirror alerts us to the fact that Chris sees the stranger and that when he reverses into him, it is not as accidental as he pretendsl. A pattern follows. There's an encounter with a stuck-up, clutter-free couple in an oak caravan, whose white terrier Banjo is a clone for Puppy that ends badly - for the husband. The dog-napped terrier gets a new home and a new name - Puppy.

Then Carol gets a drubbing from a stranger about cleaning up Puppy's dog-poo. Oooooh! Chris fools around with the bride-to-be at a rowdy hens night, which makes Carol jealous. Bad idea. She is also jealous when Chris makes friends with a weed-smoking cyclist (Richard Glover) who has a carrot pod that resembles an alien's coffin. You probably get the idea. If someone bugs you, get rid of them. The interesting part is how the two relate to each other as the incidents occur.

Throughout, we get a glimpse of the verdant meadows, beautiful landscape and misty lakes of Yorkshire. Director Ben Wheatley well captures the nuances of the quirky relationship between Chris and Tina, as they surmise that if shortening someone's life reduces their emissions, murder must be green. She thinks it would be romantic to die together, bringing their personal empowerment to its absolute peak.

There's a nice accumulative giggle about the proceedings and we are absolutely on the same wavelength as our misguided couple. Oram is effectively understated (before he starts killing, that is) under his mammoth beard, while Lowe has a delightful naivety as the serial knitter, who can't cope without potpourri. Take your black sense of humour along - there's plenty to amuse.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

SIGHTSEERS (MA15+)
(UK, 2012)

CAST: Sarah Stewart, Alice Lowe, Tony Way, Jonathan Aris, Lucy Russell, Richard Lumsden, Monica Dolan, Seamus O'Neill

PRODUCER: Claire Jones, Nira Park, Andrew Starke

DIRECTOR: Ben Wheatley

SCRIPT: Steve Oram, Alice Lowe,

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Laurie Rose

EDITOR: Robin Hill, Amy Jump, Ben Wheatley

MUSIC: Jim Williams

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jane Levick

RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2012







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