Natural born… SIGHTSEERS. The blackest of comedies

It’s easy to understand the main character of Sightseers, Chris. His bloody odyssey hides a desire to fix the world.

Krzysztof Walecki

6 March 2024

Natural born... SIGHTSEERS. The blackest of comedies

He takes his girlfriend, Tina, on a week-long trip to his favorite places – including the tram museum in Crich, the pencil museum in Keswick – but they constantly encounter people who behave uncultured, both towards them and these historic sites.

Good manners and respect are so important to Chris that their absence is equivalent to death. So if you litter, you die. If you act superior, mocking those below you, you die. If you can’t appreciate an oak tree, you die. Chris ruthlessly deals with manifestations of rudeness because they poison not only his life but the whole world. Think green is the essence of Sightseers.

Sightseers Alice Lowe Kenneth Hadley

Meanwhile, thirty-something Tina lives oppressed by her mother, who drains all her life force, constantly blaming her for the death of her beloved dog, Poppy. Chris’s week-long trip in a camping van not only serves sexual adventures for both of them but also liberation, if only for a moment, from thoughts of her sick mother. However, over time, Tina realizes how much of an original her boyfriend is, and soon she actively participates in further crimes. It’s interesting what Tina’s mother would think, seeing her and Chris in action?

Sightseers Alice Lowe

Sightseers is a black comedy directed by Ben Wheatley, whose previously realized Kill List placed him on the map of new talents in British cinema. That film was a grim crime thriller that, much like Angel Heart, gradually turned into horror with a surprising ending. A lot in that film didn’t make sense, but it was a conscious choice of the director to simply omit some puzzle pieces – he was more interested in shocking the viewer and leaving them in a state of extreme bewilderment than explaining the mechanisms governing the depicted world. Wheatley’s new proposal is already more classical in narrative form but not necessarily in message. After all, black comedy is a genre not easy to execute and not for every viewer. However, I encourage fans of this type of cinema – Sightseers, though not very spectacular in terms of plot and sometimes predictable, compensates with macabre humor and interesting character sketches. It’s worth noting that the script is the work of the main actors, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, who slightly better fulfill their acting task than the writing one.

Sightseers Alice Lowe Steve Oram

Chris and Tina, at first glance, are different. He, a balding bearded man, a lover of antiquities and a self-proclaimed writer, seemingly a calm guy, is actually nervous and jealous. He often bends his principles to kill people he simply doesn’t like. However, for friends, he’s the best buddy under the sun. She, resembling a lost Kristen Wiig, struggles with guilt over the death of the dog and the responsibility for her sick (and exceptionally malicious) mother. She dreams of romantic love and an equally romantic death, holding her beloved’s hand and jumping off a cliff with him. Both need someone with whom they can share their dilemmas and find common ground. The director’s biggest joke is that the closer they get to each other, the more the viewer is aware that by committing to each other, Tina and Chris have made the mistake of their lives.

Sightseers Alice Lowe Steve Oram

One of Sightseers ‘s producers is Edgar Wright, whose Hot Fuzz also based on placing a bloody spectacle against the backdrop of picturesque and peaceful English countryside. In that film, too, murders were somewhat justified, but Wheatley mocks such a sick worldview even more. With each subsequent murder, Chris becomes a beacon of reason and some principles, while Tina becomes increasingly uncontrollable in her thirst for murder. At a point where human life means next to nothing, it’s better to kill according to one’s own code than blindly. On the other hand, isn’t it that Tina kills for Chris? People who “threaten” their relationship die at her hands. Wheatley intentionally starts and ends his film with the song Tainted Love, but only the final scene explains why he chose this particular song. Earlier, Chris encounters a sympathetic cyclist in his own vehicle, and he clearly distances himself from Tina, which she finds hard to accept. Is this what the end of their relationship is supposed to look like?

Sightseers Alice Lowe Steve Oram

In Sightseers, there’s a lot of laughter about death and “love.” The director shows murder scenes in an uncompromising way, not sparing even poor Poppy (the dog dies in an original way, which I won’t reveal). This is not cinema for the sensitive, but when going to a black comedy, one should expect it. But amidst the macabre humor pouring out from the screen, you can also see reflection on the attempt to understand the other person. Behind Chris’s twisted philosophy lies a need to find someone who will accept him as he is. Tina also wants to meet someone who will fill the emptiness and hopelessness of her life. The dream of suicide may finally come true, or she may adopt Chris’s lifestyle, killing more people. One thing is certain, death awaits at the end – with open arms, baring teeth, and… listening to The Power of Love by Frankie Goes To Hollywood?! For Wheatley, even this reflection is an opportunity for a joke. Who would expect that from the director of the grim Kill List?