SIFF MOVIE: Skeletons (2010)

Okay, this flick is a strange pup and I’m going to have a really hard time describing it, I think.  But it’s also absolutely delightful, so even if you finish this review thinking, “What the. . .?” try to catch it somewhere if you can (not sure where, I’ll confess — check your local film festival scene and, barring that, keep an eye out for a DVD release?).  You can, and will, I’d wager, thank me later.

Bennett and Davis are two overweight sad sacks with a special skill:  they, with the help of two magic rocks (don’t ask me), can go into your house, open up your closet, and find all the skeletons buried therein.  (Metaphorical skeletons, I mean, not real ones.)  People hire the company they work for, Veridical, to come reveal the things they’ve had hidden deep inside for too long.  Couples about to be married want their secrets told to each other, a husband wants to know what his wife’s been up to, etc.  Whatever it is, these two can pop in, wave their magic rocks, and empty the deepest depths of your soul.

For the most part, they like what they do, but it’s not always easy.  For one thing, Bennett struggles with the fact all they are able to offer is the truth — they tell people terrible secrets and then walk out the door, leaving clients to battle their emotional reactions alone.  Davis, on the other hand, has a far bigger problem:  he’s addicted to “glow chasing,” using the two rocks solo to go back into his own memories.  The memory he keeps returning to, over and over again, is one of him as a child, nestled between his mother and father on the couch, listening to them tell him a story.  At the end of a long, hard day, it’s the best coping skill he knows, and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t resist the urge to sink back into that sofa.  It sounds lovely, but too much glow-chasing can make people “Go Bulgarian,” as Davis finds out the hard way when, later in the film, he suddenly wakes up and can only speak Bulgarian (it sounds funny, and it is, in fact, but this syndrome can, and has more than once in the past, result in the chaser’s death).

When the two men take a job that involves a woman and her daughter, though, everything begins to change.  The gig is particularly challenging, due to a variety of factors (for one, her house is in a “cold channel,” which means they can’t get a signal from her closet), so the two men have to spend a few nights at her house (cue hilarious dinner scene, in which every course she serves is a starchy carbohydrate).  Davis begins to bond with her 20-something mute daughter, who hasn’t spoken in years, while Bennett starts to fall for the mother, who has hired Veridical to help her find out what happened to her husband after he disappeared nearly a decade before.

As the challenges pile up, so do the emotions, and eventually, the story and all the characters take a dramatic, lively zig-zag towards a better, happier life.

This movie is sweet, funny, and thoroughly original.  I’ve never seen anything like it, really.  It had such a wonderful balance of humor and heart, and the whole “skeletons” element was absolutely fascinating — the pain that brings out in people, and sometimes the joy, the relief.  I left the theater completely buzzed with joy, wondering when, oh when!, I might be able to see it again.  And then again.  And then one more time after that.  At LEAST.

I was never a huge fan of British film until I started to dig into it with some seriousness earlier this year.  I hadn’t been exposed to it, so I didn’t know what I was missing.  Now that I’m starting to experiment more, I have to say, I’m thoroughly impressed.  It’s so different from American cinema — so much more cerebral and clean, uncluttered with masses of special effects and torturous overacting by ridiculously paid superstars.  So far, I haven’t seen one I haven’t completely adored.  Let’s hope the trend continues.   I have a feeling it will. And if you have any favorite British films — or TV shows for that matter — make sure to let me know in comments!

Highly, highly recommended!

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Comedy, Drama
Cast:  Ed Gaughan, Andy Buckley, Jason Isaacs, Paprika Steen, Tuppence Middleton

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10 Responses to “SIFF MOVIE: Skeletons (2010)”

  1. alisaj29 Says:

    Meg, this movie sounds really good. I’ll have to see if I can find out if it’s playing anywhere near me.

    Now don’t get me started on British TV shows. I love BBC America and PBS. I think my three favorite British TV shows are (and none are one any longer but you can watch or get them through Netflix) Are You Being Served, The Vicar of Dibley, and As Time Goes By” Dame Judi Dench, and Geoffrey Palmer are the main actors in this show. Black’s Books is a good show, but it’s really dry humor, not sure how you feel about that. I’ll let you know if I think of any other shows.

  2. Liz Says:

    Digging in to British film and TV sounds like a very good idea. My mother-in-law (who actually shares more of my tastes than my mom, although NO ONE but me likes horror movies) pointed out to me that a lot of successful and hard-working British actors are almost like a repertory company, because they rotate around in different media, and take turns being “the star.” Judi Dench is a prime example. Also, look at how Helen Mirren’s career has blossomed, from TV to movies to … who knows?

  3. Jules Says:

    Check out anything by Shane Meadows for a good slice of british life in the Midlands.

  4. JW Says:

    Greenfingers – a prison comedy about gardening plus Clive Owen. One cannot go wrong.

  5. Dixie-Ann Says:

    I wish I could see this movie. Don’t know how I will, but somehow….someway….

    My favourite British films are Jane Austen ones which tend to be good to great. Don’t know if this is up your alley at all. My fave is the Pride and Prejudice miniseries which first aired in 1995 and starred Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Anything directed by Kenneth Brannagh is also awesome though I’ve only see his Shakespeare. I recommend his “Henry V” and “Much Ado About Nothing”.

  6. Trip Says:

    Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor???

  7. alisaj29 Says:

    I just thought of another British tv show. Monarch of the Glen.

  8. Oisin Says:

    Amazing, loved it

  9. Richard Harland Smith Says:

    The onscreen pairing of Paprika Steen and Tuppence Middleton has me in a state of excitement I haven’t known since the onscreen pairing of Mackintosh Muggleton and Imogen Poots!

  10. megwood Says:

    If only Benedict Cumberbatch were also in it, it would be PERFECTLY RIDICULOUS IN NAME.

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