For a long time, the British fascination with going on caravan holidays – to be quite frank – has been ridiculed for being pretty darn lame. There is a reason why Top Gear ‘accidentally’ set one on fire…and tried to build their own mobile homes with hilarious results. Now, comedians Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, along with Kill List director Ben Wheatley and his frequent collaborator (and wife) Amy Jump, bring a darker side to caravanning and heritage sites around the Yorkshire moors.
Sightseers follows young lovers, the organised Chris (Oram) and the naive Tina (Lowe), on an initially-dull road trip as they take a holiday in Chris’ caravan. Along the way, litterbugs, posh folk and loud women, not to mention Tina’s bitter mother, threaten the trip as well as the sanity of the couple.
Seven years after the original idea came about, it took a link to the script to Edgar Wright, who serves as one of the film’s executive producers, and a quick fix on the script for it to grace the cinema screens.
The key to Sightseers‘s appeal is that it is quintessentially British. Not in the way that other Film4 features have portrayed Brits in the past (e.g. drug addicts, gangsters, football fans) but instead, we see that stuffy side to our culture that no-one seems to get. Along with the nods to pencil and tram museums, you have weird knitwear, anoraks and country walks with wellies. You don’t see many films with these things in them – making Sightseers almost a homage to the traditional caravanning holidaymaker.
All the while, the film has a deadpan humour along with that feeling of ‘yeah, I know how they feel’ (well, to a certain extent). Oram and Lowe’s respective demeanours play in their favour as we progressively see their characters’ relationship dwindle down from old-fashioned fumbling to paranoia and scenes that can only be described as tragic but hysterical. You have Lowe’s insecure Tina, who slowly crosses to the dark side due to her growing need for a boyfriend and Chris, who starts to crumble when his MO is threatened by his other half. A match made in chaotic heaven.
Wheatley captures the isolation of the two characters, with the infamous Yorkshire moors as the backdrop. Reminiscent of British cult classic The Wicker Man, there is that feeling of simpleness but you start to feel being pulled into a gruesome abyss. The script itself is full of memorable one-liners and bounces from dark to hilarious scenes (or even scenes that are both dark and hilarious), such as Poppy the Dog’s backstory and when Tina is threatened by Chris’s new friend…yeah, she’s truly gone by then.
Initially sweet and good natured, only to become disturbing yet laugh-out-loud funny, Sightseers is an dark treat. Note to oneself: a happy man may pull a caravan, but watch your step if you give him the bird.