Today's generation gap is huge, parents find coping with with the organised chaos that is modern life an almost insuperable problem, and yet somewhere down the line kids need their parents - and hugely also their grandparents, and of course both parties can benefit if for once we just drop the stupid, profane and mostly meaningless burdens of everyday life and think about what really matters. Communing a bit with nature might do that, and from the off we know that "What we did on our holiday" is going to be selling the inspiringly gorgeous Scottish Highlands and Islands to us - including the midges (whose presence the film is big enough to admit to).
In general, this offering both written and directed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin dwells a lot on peoples' lying (for a vareity of reasons), yet is supremely, at times touchingly, at times even brutally, honest in its approach.
Its integrity shines through.
To make this work, the makers needed two sets of messed up parents to begin with (and this job is very well done by David Tennant + Rosamund Pike, as well as Ben Miller (the best thing he's done I believe) + Amelia Bullmore. Here we have two brothers markedly different from one another plus their wives. On paper, the Miller character Gavin is more successful than that played by Tennant, but he has the small difficulty of actually explaining what he even does! Basically, he's a "short seller" (whatever that is), and his young nephews and nieces make the kind of innocently witty remarks on that score that you might expect - to fine good comic effect! Exactly what brother Doug does is not clear either, but both of their marriages have some issues.
But the stars of this show are grandparent and kids, and here there is nothing less than dream-fulfilment, as those who have long imagined how great a slightly toned-down but still pithy Billy Connolly might prove to be get their rewards. Poor old grandad is on the way out due to cancer and he is now (on the occasion of his 75th birthday party) ready, even desperate, to communicate some of his real, fundamental thoughts about the world. He feels he's not going to do very well with his sons and daughters-in-law, but wonders if he might reach them through the kids, at the same time as reaching the kids. Ultimately, he achieves more than he bargains for, when actually dying on the beach while in those kids' company; and he thus gives rise to the film's crescendo ending (on which score I'll avoid all spoilers).
Many of the lines Connolly gets to utter are just superb, and the way he puts them across likewise. It's a treat.
However, as Connolly interacts magnificently with Emilia Jones as Lottie, Bobby Smalldridge as Mickey and Harriet Turnbull as the youngest Jess, even he is at the same time being upstaged by them. These kids are just splendidly talented, appealing, and extremely, extremely funny. What is more, they often convey huge meaning in what they say and do, as kids invariably will. There is total, disarming authenticity here.
Lottie - being the oldest - is most affected by her parents' marital problems, and has become rather withdrawn and anxious. Seeing her transform with the events of the film is a moving and at times powerful joy to watch. More depth and reality is conveyed by Emilia Jones's performance than in many, many previous films we've seen.
Indeed, comedy laugh-out-loud this may be, but we take a great deal of value and meaning from this piece if we focus in on it (and also if we perservere through a perhaps slightly unpromising-looking first few minutes).
Let's face it, a family get-together in a big house in the remote and beautiful wilds of Scotland is a concept that has a lot going for it from the outset, but the gem of giving equal weight to three generations of the family (with actors truly capable of pushing that idea through), of allowing the lines to flow with such a mix of wit and wisdom, of achieving the perfect mix of physical and verbal comedy, and of pursuing a plot-line of typically British eccentricity, is a really great achievement that should not be underestimated.
At moments, "What we did on our holiday" risks straying towards the syrupy or naive, but it mostly, mainly stays on the right side of the line. That'as deft work by the makers. The film also very wisely plays only slightly with the English-Scottish stuff, remaining good-humoured and avoiding easy laughs based around divisiveness in favour of meaningful content that Brits from Land's End to John O'Groats can readily identify with.
And they certainly should do so, as the rewards are very considerable.
I expected little here and got a very great deal (appropriately enough on Christmas Day).
I believe many, many others will find the same as I did.
What We Did on Our Holiday
Comedy / Drama
What We Did on Our Holiday
Comedy / Drama
Doug and Abi take their kids on a family vacation. Surrounded by relatives, the kids innocently reveal the ins and outs of their family life and many intimate details about their parents. It's soon clear that when it comes to keeping a big secret under wraps from the rest of the family, their children are their biggest liability... Find out how the rest of the family cope and see if the holiday will ever end.
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January 22, 2015 at 03:48 AM