Working behind the counter in a café in a seaside tourist town and living with her demanding mother, life is stifling for Louise Farnt, but she dreams of better, walking the hills above the beach listening to her self-helf tapes, learning to visualise her new, empowered life: “This is who you can be. Believe in the power of you.”
A chance encounter at a particularly uninspiring seminar introduces Lou to Val Stone, too assured and composed to belong among the sparse crowd whose neediness is larger than their number. Unlike them, Val has ambition: she will be the greatest life coach in the world, known the world over, celebrated by all those whose potential she has unleashed.
Planning a road trip and looking for a travelling companion, Lou takes a chance and accompanies Val as she explores different avenues on the road to inner serenity, encounters with nature, sound therapy, primal regressions, and killing anyone who crosses their path whom they finds irksome, a more immediately satisfying activity.
Written and directed by Staten Cousins-Roe, Katie Brayben is the downtrodden Lou, living an awkward domestic hell and entranced by the self-sufficient glamour of Poppy Roe as Val, bereft of empathy and sneering at the feeble pain of humanity, together exploring A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life as the path takes them from Lou’s ungrateful mother Maureen (Sarah Ball) to the home of fulsome guru Chuck Knoah (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), author of Love, Love, Love Yourself.
A very British look at the phenomenon of self-improvement which sells toxic dissatisfaction as a commodity and encourages radical reinvention and release of suppressed desires, from forest baptisms with the blood of freshly killed rabbits to exploring the vibrations of the human body, the acerbic Val seems to the be the only character who recognises the subdued horror of their circumstances, Lou blithely delighted just to have a friend.
The short running time a blessing, the premise once established is not developed further and the sole twist is telegraphed too early, but with aspects of Sightseers and Prevenge and a dash of violence to lovely, lovely Beethoven, A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life is another dark celebration of the English countryside and the contradictions of the spirit of the nation even if its own ambition feels somewhat BBC Three.