Skeletons Review: Plenty Of Meat On The Bone
Nick Whitfield’s supernatural treatise on memory and loss makes for gripping viewing and may well prove itself to be the most original British film to emerge in years. It’s a paranormal fable about two ‘Extraction Practitioners’ (Davis & Bennett) – a profession that involves helping to rid people of their personal secrets and shames – sent to a family trying to discover the whereabouts of the father, last seen leaving the house seven years ago. What they expect will be a routine job turns out to be more complicated than they had anticipated: the mother is borderline delusional with a penchant for serving dinners of plain pasta, roast potatoes and rice whilst the daughter has mysteriously taken a vow of silence.
The perculiar circumstances they meet under provide fruitful opportunities for some unique comic set-ups: Davis and Bennett’s incredulity when spotting Jane (Paprika Steen) randomly digging holes in the forest as a last ditch attempt at finding her husband is one of many highlights. Skeletons is also irresistibly likeable due to its upbeat and amicable philosophy, defying a lapse into sentimentality at every turn: in what could’ve been a rather mawkish exchange between man and boy, Bennett sums up tragedy with, “Things go on though don’t they?”
Davis and Bennett’s camaraderie will inevitably invite comparisons with Laurel & Hardy but the material of Skeletons is more despairing than any Stan and Olly pratfall. When Davis compulsively returns to a formative memory, there is a gut-wrenching melancholy to the sight of him as a vulnerable adult confronted with himself as a happy protected child. The painful journeys down memory lanes are reflected by the harsh deserted landscapes that Davis and Bennett cross to reach their clients, preferring to follow the railway tracks rather than drive by car. As a result they never encounter anyone else other than the customers they’ve set out to meet, reflecting the bleak tone of remembrance that underlines the film.
Skeletons is a triumph and provides further evidence that British film, contrary to popular opinion, isn’t dead and buried so long as gems such as this continue to get financed and, hopefully one day, well distributed.