Dark comedy on a caravan trip

Alice Lowe and Steve Oram in Sightseers
Alice Lowe and Steve Oram in Sightseers

YOU could call Sightseers (Cert 15) a black comedy road movie but that hardly does justice to just how dark and oddly comic the film is.

Downtrodden Midlands thirtysomething Tina (Alice Lowe) escapes from her domineering mother to go away with her new boyfriend Chris (Steve Oram) in his caravan.

Chris has planned an itinerary taking in some of the sights of Northern England, starting with the Crich Tramway Museum and the Peak Cavern at Castleton and onwards to such delights as the Ribblehead Viaduct and the Keswick Pencil Museum .

What could be more dull and ordinary? But once Chris has clashed with a litter lout at Crich, which ends with his foe perishing under the wheels of the caravan, it becomes clear that he is not so much an anal-retentive sociopath but a psychopath who is soon dispatching other annoying strangers who cross his path. Tina is at first puzzled but then decides if she can’t beat him she might as well join him.

The story is developed from a script by Lowe and Oram for a stage act and an unrealised TV sitcom and is directed by Ben Wheatley who won accolades for his psychological horror Kill List, filmed around Sheffield.

That combination creates a weird dichotomy between, on the one hand, a Mike Leigh–style comedy of embarrassment in the company of rather sad ordinary people, and on the other the extreme violence of their deeds – shown in all its gory detail – and it works well for most of the journey. But there comes a point when the film really has nowhere to go.

Mike Newell follows a well-trodden path in bringing Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (Cert PG) to the screen and the result is pleasant and watchable but as bland as its lead, Jeremy Irvine from War Horse. Ralph Fiennes certainly makes an impression as the escaped convict Magwitch who frightens young orphan Pip at the outset, as does Helena Bonham Carter as the strange recluse Miss Havisham who becomes his guardian.

Through her he develops a taste for the finer things in life and falls for her adopted daughter, Estella.

Grown up , Pip is left a fortune by an unknown benefactor, and leaves the forge where he has lived and worked all his life and moves to London to become a gentleman where it takes him a while to find his true path in life.

There’s some stirring character stuff from Robbie Coltrane, David Walliams, Ewen Bremner and Sally Hawkins among others and the locations – especially the Kent marshes – are atmospheric.