What We Did on Our Holiday
dir-scr Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin
prd David M Thompson, Dan Winch
with Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, Billy Connolly, Emilia Jones, Bobby Smalldridge, Harriet Turnbull, Ben Miller, Amelia Bullmore, Celia Imrie, Lewis Davie, Annette Crosbie, Eben Young
release UK 26.Sep.14
14/UK BBC 1h35
What We Did on Our Holiday
Big smiles, everyone: Pike and Tenant

connolly miller imrie
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
What We Did on Our Holiday There's an unusual honesty to this British comedy, neither resorting to corny exaggeration nor flinching away from the kinds of things that are usually not deemed suitable for a family movie. But then that's the whole point of the film: that when we try to protect our children from real life, we're often doing more harm than good.

Abi and Doug (Pike and Tennant) are frazzled London parents who are driving north to the Scottish Highlands to celebrate the 75th birthday of Doug's father Gordy (Connolly). They've instructed their three precocious children Lottie, Mickey and Jess (Jones, Smalldridge and Turnbull) to refrain from discussing the breakdown of their marriage. Meanwhile, Gordy is avoiding conversations about his terminal cancer. And Doug's brother Gavin (Miller) and his wife Margaret (Bullmore) are also shying away from their own recent past. Then while the kids are at the beach with Gordy, the holiday takes a surprising turn.

Where this story goes is pretty startling, mainly because it centres on three children under 10 years of age, played to perfection by young actors who create utterly believable characters. Watching them dismiss the secrets and lies of the grown-ups is eerily truthful, but the film has such a breezy tone that laughter is the instant, most natural response. Meanwhile, the adult cast gets on with the broader comedy, carefully walking the line between character-based humour and goofy farce.

Filmmakers Hamilton and Jenkin have packed the script with ideas, some of which feel a little forced. Crosbie's lesbian ostrich farmer, provides a pointed lesson as well as a decent running gag. Imrie's social services investigator is perhaps a bit too knowing and wise if recent headlines are to be believed. But all of this dovetails together nicely to maintain a comical tone while meaningfully revealing much darker undercurrents.

And then there's the setting itself, as the expansive Highlands landscapes provide a gorgeous backdrop for the story as well as a sense of history that feeds into the story's resonant themes about family connections. In the end, the film's message is perhaps a little too obvious (and possibly glib considering the subject matter), but the cast and crew manage to avoid any hint of melodrama or sentimentality along the way, which makes the conclusion both moving and memorable.

cert 12 themes, language 27.May.14

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