out of Five
Running time: 94
Inventive and original, this is an enjoyably quirky British drama with terrific performances and a script that's both darkly funny and emotionally engaging.
What's it all about?
Directed by Nick Whitfield, Skeletons stars Ed Gaughan and Andrew Buckley as Davis and Bennett, two emotional exorcists who travel around the country helping people reveal secrets from their pasts by removing the skeletons from their closets. Most of their jobs are routine in-and-out affairs, but when they're sent to a country house to help Jane Baron (Paprika Steen) find her missing husband, things don't quite go according to plan and soon their enigmatic boss, The Colonel (Jason Isaacs) shows up to oversee their work.
Meanwhile, Bennett finds himself getting emotionally involved with Jane and her two children – bright young Jojo (Josef Whitfield) and mysteriously mute teenager Rebecca (Tuppence Middleton) – while Davis becomes increasingly hooked on “glow-chasing” (i.e. taking powerfully nostalgic 'hits' from his own past), which begins to interfere with both his personal life and his ability to do his job.
Buckley and Gaughan are both excellent as the mismatched duo, their physical differences (one large and bespectacled like a ginger John Candy, the other small and vaguely rat-like) standing as good visual shorthand for their relationship – as the film begins they're very much co-workers rather than friends. There's also terrific support from Paprika Steen, the always-excellent Jason Isaacs and rising star Tuppence Middleton, who does some impressive face-acting in her mute scenes, while child actor Josef Whitfield is utterly charming as Jojo, especially in his interactions with Bennett (“I live with my mother too”).
Despite taking a few obvious cues from the likes of Charlie Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (or the recent Cold Souls), the script feels original and inventive throughout, touching on some powerfully emotional themes and exploring ideas of addiction and nostalgia. Most notable is the way that it refuses to explain the science-fiction-like elements of the story, even though Bennett and Davis discuss the fact that people often don't actually believe they can do what they do.
In addition, the script crackles with great dialogue (particularly whenever Isaacs is on screen) and the finale is genuinely moving.
Skeletons is an enjoyably quirky, beautifully shot British drama with some nice ideas, an inventive script and terrific performances from the entire cast. Highly recommended.