Saturday, 31 July 2010


Skeletons, a low-budget British film (made on "a shoestring", according to this Guardian article), follows two scruffy professional men whose occupation involves visiting customers, often couples, at their request to uncover their secrets - the skeletons in their wardrobes - using the sort of equipment favoured by new-agers and amateur ghostbusters. Only, in the movie, this equipment works - and they are able to physically explore and investigate their customers' secrets before reporting back to them. The premise is internally consistent, thankfully, so the quasi-supernatural elements are not intrusive (unlike in The Prestige, for instance, which annoyed me earlier this week).

The two are apparently experienced but junior officers who are then given the opportunity by their gruff northern boss, the Colonel - played by Jason Isaacs and his moustache - to undertake a more difficult role which, if completed well, may lead to promotion. However, the job is even more difficult than they had anticipated. They are further beset by a troublesome member of the family they investigate, the 21-year-old daughter - played by the brilliantly-named Tuppence Middleton (who played the lead in last year's silly Brit horror Tormented). To make things even more difficult, one of the duo is battling his addiction to 'glowchasing' - illicitly reliving happy memories using work equipment. In order to complete the job more quickly, they decide to stay with the family, leading to some beautifully balanced and very funny dinner scenes, as well as some strange and moving friendships.

Skeletons is being shown a handful of times at various independent cinemas - a list of screenings appears on the official website - but will hopefully receive longer runs in future. It should: the screening I saw at Manchester's Cornerhouse was moved to a larger screen to accommodate the relatively large audience, presumably many of whom had - like me - been alerted to Skeletons' existence by Jason Isaacs' plugging it on Mayo and Kermode's review show. The Cornerhouse is planning a week-long run in August as a result of its popularity.

Conceptually it shares some aspects with Inception although, featuring few special effects and taking place largely in the English countryside, is dramatically different visually. It has been compared to Withnail & I, and it it has some similarities: the setting, the very British humour, the close platonic relationship between two men of a certain age and, happily, the quality of the script and performances. Skeletons has some interesting things to say about the nature of secrets, memories and the dangers of living in the past. But despite the bizarre premise and story - and although it works well in that respect - it was the unconventional but touching relationships between the six principal characters that really made it for me. I hope Skeletons gains the audience, and the recognition, it deserves.

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