'What We Did on Our Holiday' is an interesting film, the likes of which I haven't quite come across before in the way it's composed. It has a real world sincerity to it that takes a bit of getting used to for the first 10 minutes, especially when the last movie I saw in theatres was 'Guardians of the Galaxy'. But after that, it becomes a charming feel that punctures all of the films best moments. And because of that, I don't feel I can really split it into categories like I normally do on reviews, so I guess we'll have to just make this up as we go along.
*Also, please note that mild spoilers follow*
'What We Did on Our Holiday' follows Doug and Abi, a couple whose relationship has fallen apart in a way that has started damaging their three children. They take a trip to the highlands to celebrate Doug's terminally ill father Gordy's 75th birthday.
The film's strongest point is that almost every character feels almost familiar, as if you could meet them at your next family reunion, though that may or may not be because the cast are mostly Scottish, and well, so am I. But the film plays off of this very cleverly, punctuating it's best jokes and moments with this kind of feel. For example, Billy Connolly's character of Gordy, the kids' Grandfather, is all the more touching because he feels like he could be your own grandfather. Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) both feel like real world people, dealing with real world issues like flawed, real world people, and saying more would give away too much, but they both fill their characters' shoes well. On the other hand, the kids are hit and miss, in that sometimes they are quite funny and touching, but for a good amount of the time, their jokes are annoying or repetitive. To be fair, the child actors for the most part aren't the problem (they're actually some of the best I've seen in a while) but rather the fault lies with the screenwriters for the most part. But even with that said, it never gets too bad to stand.
Billy Connolly is incredibly heartfelt in the film, playing a terminally ill father and grandfather. Which becomes even more heartbreaking when viewed with the knowledge of his recent diagnosis of Parkinsons in mind. It almost feels like his goodbye film to the world, and if you're a fan (like me) then there's gonna be some tears shed. He's at his least comical here, but it's definitely his most genuinely touching performance to date and he really portrays his character beautifully, playing a crucial role in most of the films stand out scenes.
It's also worth saying that directors Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin seem to have a deep passion for the Scottish countryside, displaying some breathtaking views of the highlands seemingly effortlessly and composing certain shots that speak for themselves as emotional scenes.
However, the film is (as the title says) flawed. One of the main problems are that a lot of the jokes are told at the wrong moments. So a lot of the great emotional moments I've mentioned are immediately followed by one of the kids making some out of place quip that undermines the past scene in an unnecessary way, which is annoying when it happens so regularly. I'm not sure if the film was going for a sort of child's view on these things, and I get that jokes need to balance the gut punches, but it gets quite annoying at times.
There's also the matter of Doug's brother Gavin and his family, who could all have almost beeen cut from the film entirely. They supply some comic relief, but they all get given their own story and character arc that feels rushed and while it gets so little time it doesn't take away from the film, it doesn't add anything either. So while Ben Miller's Gavin was a fun character, the rest of his family didn't need to be given their own arcs and just eat up screen time.
'What We Did on Our Holiday' is a very british style film. But to that end, it's a solid, charming little picture with consistent laughs, consistently well handled theme and consistent feel good factor. It's not something to rush and see, but if you are, like me, into this kind of movie or even just a fan of 'The Big Yin' then it's definitely worth checking out