What We Did On Our Holiday
The British have a knack for throwing a movie across the pond every so often that really blows something odd into the cultural mix. It isn’t always a hit, but whether it’s The Full Monty, Waking Ned Devine, or the recent, largely unnoticed, Calvary, these are films that a substantial population of Anglo-cinephiles fall in love with. What We Did On Our Holiday is such a film, and it is as difficult to explain why it’s so wonderful as it was with any of those other films. What, precisely, is so damn great about Waking Ned Devine anyway?
What We Did On Our Holiday, like those in this Brit-genre I imagine exists, takes a very simple premise, and throws buckets of charm at it. There is, to be blunt, a different perspective that many British filmmakers take when it comes to diving into characters, and letting their ability to pull you in be all that really matters.
Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) are getting ready to head to Doug’s father’s (Billy Connoly) birthday party. Gordie, Doug’s father, hasn’t been well, and is getting up there, so despite having separated quite a while ago, the couple are reuniting for the none-too-original “pretend we’re still together” bit. Their three kids have to be in on the game, and there is much coaching about not mentioning that Mommy and Daddy live in different houses now.
This troubles the oldest daughter most, and she petitions her parents for a list of lies so she can be sure to keep it all straight. The idea is the worst for her, because she really likes her wise and comical grandfather, and her siblings are too young for such things to weigh heavily on them.
The story bounces through the unavoidable conflicts, with Doug and Abi having a difficult time pretending to be happy, and Doug and his brother, Gavin (Ben Miller), fighting about the same old things. The subterfuge cranks up the children’s worry another notch when grandpa relates that all the arguing and conflict bother him, and he doesn’t even know the worst of it.
While light-hearted fare in its way, the film has beautiful moments, even if it occasionally tries too hard to deliver them. There’s ultimately a kind of overbearing “fortune cookie” quality to the delivery, as grandpa lays his life lessons out to his granddaughter, and Doug and Abi mirror their spot-on explanation of how people fall out of love. It’s easy to forgive though, because the film has a style and overriding sensibility that allow for forgiveness. Besides, even if it sticks to its genre norms in spots, it isn’t really after what you’re usually supposed to get out of them.
There’s something almost childlike about the film itself, and not just because it pays attention to the children in a way that would make most people holding a film’s purse strings uncomfortable. There’s a strength of purpose the film manages, not because granddad is a wise, old granddad, but because whenever he says something that sounds like he’s quoting Gandhi, the children respond with the, “Well, duh,” of the uninitiated, who haven’t had to spend years coming back to the obvious truths that the world beat out of them.
Written and directed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, who are legends of British television, the screenplay sneaks in its most impressive efforts wonderfully, leaving them on the level of things we aren’t pretentious enough to think we need to explain. Mostly a film about what we do and don’t say to people, and why, it is perhaps only one young girl’s struggle to figure out that “honest,” and, “honest with someone,” are different things, and one of them is kind of crap.
DirectionAndy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin
WritingAndy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin
CastRosamund Pike, David Tennant, Billy Connolly
SynopsisDoug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) and their three children travel to the Scottish Highlands for Doug's father Gordie's (Billy Connolly) birthday party. It's soon clear that when it comes to keeping a secret under wraps from the rest of the family, their children are their biggest liability... From the creators of the hit BBC comedy series Outnumbered - WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAY is a heart-warming, uplifting comedy for all the family.