Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
Director: Ben Wheatley
After writing and directing 2011’s Kill List, Ben Wheatley once again picks up the theme of the dark and the disturbed with this black comedy written by its two leads, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram with additional help from Amy Jump.
Now, when I say ‘black’ I do mean darker than the deepest, untouched recesses of the Earth, blacker than the Ace of Spades and murkier than the waters around a BP oil rig. If you’re like me and the above pretty much sums up your sense of humour then you should be able to enjoy this and you may need counselling.
Chris and Tina (Oram and Lowe, respectively) are a quirky couple who have recently hooked up and plan on going on a caravan holiday through Yorkshire. The former is a big-bearded writer out looking for inspiration and a way to express himself and his dark side, which it becomes obvious he possesses almost from the get-go. The latter is a mild-mannered woman who still lives with her overly protective, interfering mother and has a manic fondness for dogs. Tina though, is clearly haunted by some traumatic event in her past that her mother clearly hasn’t forgiven her for. All this is hidden behind her teenage mannerisms (“I’ve always wanted a boy in this room”) and generally sunny disposition (that was the only time you’ll see that word in this review).
The stage is set for this oddest of couples to cause havoc across the North and sure enough, within minutes a veritable Pandora’s Box of blood, psychosis and knitted erotic underwear is opened after a handful of hapless characters rub Chris the wrong way all the way to the Pencil Museum.
Through this film, you may bring your own moral judgement in to question. I say this as I found myself, to some extent, feeling sympathy for the two, very flawed anti- heroes. One has to constantly remind oneself, these two have committed multiple homicides together. Such is the striking chemistry between Lowe and Oram and the likeability of their characters. I couldn’t help myself feeling on their side throughout their holiday which is either what the writers wanted or I’m a very ill person.
Obviously the things that tick Chris and Tina off would tick most people off, it’s just that most people (myself included, I hasten to add) would consider bludgeoning, splattering and running over the world to rights as a bit… excessive.
The film is shot brilliantly throughout against the bleak and barren backdrop of the Yorkshire countryside, more often than not a grey sky hanging overhead – aesthetics which accompany the story and mood perfectly. There are some scenes of real gripping tension shot in slow motion or POV but what really gives these scenes their flare and ferocity is the soundtrack that accompanies them. Many’s the time a murder is committed to a perfectly selected piece of music that ranges from Neu! to Elgar to Soft Cell. The songs and eerie original soundtrack composed by Jim Williams will either highlight the depravity or the hilarity of the film – in some cases, both. I’d single out one particular scene shot to Donovan’s 1966 “Season of the Witch” as one of my favourite cinema moments of this year.
As the laughs go, they come at a steady pace with the odd guffaw-inducing gag popping up but sometimes, particularly as the film progresses, the situations and characters become so believable it’s easy to forget that you’re actually meant to find some bits funny, especially if you’re the type who really, really, really doesn’t like humour about people being violently ended for littering.
Having said that, the story and the characters themselves should be enough to engage you if you aren’t pre-occupied with expecting a laugh-a-minute joke-athon.
It’s been a while since these Isles have produced such a dark, unique and, well, British comedy of this calibre but I do stress that if blood and faces bashed in beyond recognition don’t sit well with your stomach then you may want to stay clear. If you were a fan of Hot Fuzz and don’t mind less laughs and a more shadowy atmosphere then there may still be hope for you. The story of this murderous, brummie Romeo and Juliet is a triumph in itself and should keep you eager to learn their ultimate fate right up until its very last scene and could well shock you even if you think you’ve already sussed it out.
This is a definite ‘Marmite’ case of a film but whatever its destiny at the box office, I’ve no doubt it’ll go down as a cult classic. If you’re a connoisseur of black comedy like yours truly, you shouldn’t miss this. An exploration of the weird, the insane, the deviant and of course, Yorkshire; this is one sight that really should be seen.