Now showing @ Cornerhouse… Reviewed: Sightseers and About Elly

By John Paul Shammas

This week at Cornerhouse, a BAFTA preview of the provocative  black-comedy ‘Sightseers’ and the haunting Iranian drama ‘About Elly’ come to the screens.

Review: Sightseers

After shocking the world with his brooding kitchen-sink horror Kill List last year, director Ben Wheatley returns with this blacker-than-black comedy Sightseers.

From the off, it’s quite clear that Chris and Tina, two thirty-somethings who have only recently met, are both a little unhinged.

They set off on a caravanning holiday which, naturally in Ben Wheatley’s world, turns into a killing spree as their repressed anxieties boil to the surface.

Behind the cringeworthy gags that occupy Tina and Chris’ visits to a series of mundane sights such as The Tram Museum, there is something quite dark at work here.

It becomes apparent to the couple that they might not know each other quite as well as they first thought, and Sightseers quickly transforms into a thoroughly engaging and intense realist-odyssey of mutual self-discovery.

Whilst Sightseers initially seems like a departure from Wheatley’s Kill List, as it unravels we see the development of these two incredibly damaged holiday makers serve to demonstrate the Wheatley’s understanding and fascination with repressed, broken people.

It’s premise might initially make is seem like Sightseers is an attempt to recreate the wondrous Withnail & I, but that’s not the case. Like Kill List, Wheatley’s hand is so tangible in each scene that he prevents his films from being confined by genre or audience expectations.

Rather, he purposely takes us right out of our comfort zones, challenging and, ultimately charming us in his own way.

Sightseers is a precious film which serves to solidify Wheatley’s status as a prominent voice in British cinema.

Cornerhouse is screening the film this coming Wednesday ahead of it’s November 30 general release.

Review: About Elly

Sticking on the theme of holidays that have gone horribly wrong, this fascinating psychological drama from Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi is also sure to leave an impression.

The film opens with three families heading together for a holiday in north Iran. But their moral fabric is tested when Elly, a young teacher who has travelled with the families after being invited at the last minute, goes missing.

As a storyteller, Farhadi, much like a Hitchcock film or a great Stephen King novel, spends the opening half of the story making us care about the characters at a mundane, earthly pace with seemingly not much else happening, before putting his foot on the gas and awakening us from our slumber.

The rhythm of the film instantly leaps, and as About Elly unravels, what we thought we knew about each character and their motivations are unveiled to be false and consequently the film reaches a hysteric momentum.

Enquiries as to what has happened to Elly, and how much they really knew about her in the first place all take place on a deserted beachfront, a haunting setting for a holiday of which none of them can now escape, making this a deeply haunting psychological drama.

The film of course works as a political parable, demonstrating a repressed culture where honesty is never the easy option.

But simply it is Farhadi’s direction and storytelling which makes About Elly a triumph, featuring one spectacularly mesmerising set-piece.

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