Emma Jane Unsworth is Tina in Sightseers


Emma Jane Unsworth was born in Prestwich and lives in Manchester. She has a tattoo of one of the big metal lions that resides outside Heaton Park on her arm and a Betty Trask award for her debut novel Hungry, the Stars and Everything. Her second novel, the visceral and vulnerable Animals (the title comes from a Frank O’Hara poem) has been described as ‘Withnail with girls’. It heads out on the town with hedonistic Laura and Tyler as they riotously down shots, take drugs, ponder poetry and physics, art and religion and do their level best to defy the strictures of polite society. It is therefore maybe not entirely surprising that Emma should choose the murderous Tina from Sightseers as her filmic alter ego. Eithne Farry

Gawky, ginger, immature, sadistic… Really there was no competition when it came to selecting my cinematic alter ago. It had to be Tina from Sightseers. Released in 2012, Ben Wheatley’s dark British comedy sees Steve Oram playing Chris, a caravan fan, who takes his new girlfriend, Tina (Alice Lowe), on a road trip round Northern England to showcase his favourite tourist spots. It’s no walk in the park. The holiday quickly escalates into a bloody rampage, provoked initially by Chris’s fury at a man dropping a Cornetto wrapper on the floor in a tram museum. Oh come on, we all know what it’s like – sometimes the smallest things can tip you over the edge. Besides, it’s important to respect your heritage and the environment. People have to learn…

Pot pourri fetishist Tina is, it would seem, overwhelmed by the world even before she hits the road with Chris. Aged 34, she lives at home with her mother, a megalomaniacal whinger grieving the loss of the family pet terrier, Poppy. For Tina, the caravan holiday with Chris signifies both an escape from depressing daughterly responsibility, and tardily won sexual liberty. The landscape they traverse – the rolling hills, the winding roads, the wide open sky – is the proverbial wilderness, fraught with possibility and peril. Especially when Tina gets out her crotchless knitted underwear. Very Viz. But before long the playful observational comedy becomes an ominous counterpoint to brutality. We enter a nightmarish moral hinterland as the couple indulge (Tina albeit reluctantly) in a full-blown killing spree and find themselves on the run. Like a less sexy Bonnie and Clyde. In a caravan.

There’s a timelessness as well as a lawlessness to Sightseers. It could easily be set in the 60s, 70s or 80s without changing a frame. Tina is no everywoman, though. She is a constant, excruciating surprise. I love this film because it’s absurd, and dark, and funny. Also because I’m interested in social disobedience; in people operating on the outskirts of what’s considered acceptable, and the animalistic urges within human nature that can leave you out on a limb. Also because I’m obsessed with campervans and have set my third novel in one. Caravans and campervans offer a strange mix of adventure and domesticity. I mean, really, what kind of maniac wants to live in what is essentially a Wendy House on wheels? Well, this kind of maniac. And Tina. It beats being at home with her mother.

Animals is out now with Canongate (£12.99). More information on Emma Jane Unsworth can be found on emmajaneunsworth.com.

Emma Jane Unsworth