SXSW FILM 2010
By Don Simpson | March 29, 2010
Director: Nick Whitfield
Writer: Nick Whitfield
Starring: Andrew Buckley, Ed Gaughan, Paprika Steen, Tuppence Middleton, Jason Isaacs, Josef Whitfield
Bennett (Andrew Buckley) and Davis (Ed Gaughan) are two British guys in suits who are trained to exorcize the proverbial skeletons from people’s closets. (For example: engaged couples utilize Bennett and Davis’ services to get their scandalous affairs and other dirty bits of laundry out in the open.) The duo walk the lush rolling green hills of the British countryside until they find a home that matches a hand-sketched picture. Once they find their destination, they interview their clients and acquire the required signatures and waivers. Then, it’s on to business. They use a device sort of like a Geiger counter to detect the closet or wardrobe where the skeletons are hiding; then with goggles strapped on and magic rocks and fire extinguisher in hands, they dive into the surreal worlds where only the deepest darkest secrets reside. It is important to note that this is a task that must be done in pairs – as going solo into the dark recesses of people’s memories (especially one’s own memories) has been proven to cause mental problems, even turning one’s brain to mush. In other words, this job is not without danger.
After a few routine business calls, Bennett and Davis find themselves at Jane’s (Paprika Steen) house. Jane is a middle-aged single mother of two. Her husband disappeared several years ago and her daughter Rebecca (Tuppence Middleton) has since become mute. Bennett and Davis have been called in to discover what happened to Jane’s husband – an unconventional task, even for Bennett and Davis – but in order to do so they are forced to first dust off their own skeletons.
To say anything else about the plot would begin to give too much away. I went into the SXSW 2010 screening of Skeletons without the faintest clue about what I was in store for. I knew the name of the film and I knew that it was British. By the title of the film I had guessed that it was a horror film (it isn’t). And then Skeletons wound up being the best surprise of SXSW 2010 for me. In other words, Skeletons is a secret that is worth keeping.
Written and directed by Nick Whitfield, Skeletons is a brain-teasing comedy with highly intelligent dialog that is brimming with deadpan humor and a plot that requires some mental gymnastics on the part of the viewer. (I sense a strong affinity for Monty Python and Terry Gilliam…maybe even some David Lynch – all very good things in my book.) Buckley, Gaughan and Middleton really blew me away with their performances – not to discredit the rest of the cast, because everyone was great. But, in the end, the true credit for the excellence of Skeletons goes to Whitfield – his cinematic eye is as squeaky clean as his knack for dialogue.
I am really hoping that Skeletons will get the distribution that it deserves on this side of the pond. Of all of the films that I saw during SXSW 2010, this is the film that I am most eager to see again…and again…and again.