Skeletons is an odd but hugely enjoyable debut from Nick Whitfield. The film won the Michael Powell award at 2010’s Edinburgh film festival and deservedly so.
Bennett (Andrew Buckley) and Davis (Ed Gaughan) are travelling salesmen. They wander about rural areas with wonderful hand-drawn illustrations, which guide them to their destinations like a map, always travelling across rolling hills and along railway tracks, but never roads for some reason. The duo wander in and out of people’s lives, performing a mysterious ‘procedure’, whereby hidden secrets and lies are revealed. When Bennett and Davis arrive at a remote family home and are unable to get the job done, they discover that you can’t always escape your own past.
The ‘procedure’ that Bennett and Davis carry-out involves finding a ‘hot-spot’, which is always in a cupboard, and then they use some weird equipment that wouldn’t be out of place in one of the Ghostbusters films, to gather their information. It would be easy to fall into the trap of describing Bennett and Davis as British ‘ghostbusters’ or exorcists, but that would be inaccurate.
Bennett, Davis and their shady employer, ‘The Colonel’ (Jason Isaacs), are all involved in some sort of supernatural business, that’s for certain. But the mysterious ‘procedure’ appears to have more in common with telepathy than exorcism, with Bennett and Davis reliving their clients’ experiences, exposing their secrets and lies, from salsa lessons to curb crawling.
At only 94 minutes long the film is fairly punchy and frequently interspersed with black humour. The moment that Davis finally turns ‘Bulgarian’ is particularly amusing, as is the bickering between Bennett and Davis, and most of the scenes involving the gloriously moustached, Jason Isaacs.
Skeletons is a dry but often heartfelt black comedy and it features two great performances from Ed Gaughan and Jason Isaacs. This is a quirky, eccentric British film, which clearly marks its director as a talent to watch.
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