WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAY
A bickering, divorcing couple, Abi & Doug (Rosamund Pike, David Tennant), take their kids from London to Scotland, to visit their ailing grandfather, Gordie (Billy Connolly), for his 75th birthday.
Review by Louise Keller:
Live more; think less is the mantra of Billy Connolly's Gordie, who says what he feels and does what he likes in this bittersweet comedy about life, death and families. The peaceful Scottish highlands setting becomes a battleground for the intolerant as differences are aired and tempers fray when a family celebration is the springboard for a comedy of errors. TV directors Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin have written a wonderful script that hones in on the ridiculous, allowing the disarming pragmatism of young children to act as a beacon of truth. I laughed throughout this sharp, witty and observant film that makes us look closely at ourselves, as we address serious issues.
The film begins as a family prepares to drive north to Scotland for Gordie's 75th birthday celebration, which is expected to be his last - because of his health. We learn everything we need to know about the family relationships through Abi (Rosamund Pike) and Doug's (David Tennant) three forthright children, whose obsessions with pet rocks, Viking gods and recording facts, truths and lies in a little notebook, open a window into their lives. It is clear that Abi and Doug want to keep their imminent divorce secret from Gordie. How can they convince three children under 10 to be selective about what they reveal?
Pike has a lovely presence and both she and Tennant have great comic timing as they try to keep everything afloat. It's a great role for Connolly, who perfectly embodies the rebellious Gordie, delivering pearls of wisdom that are always couched in irreverent humour. Ben Miller is also good as Doug's scrooge-like brother Gavin, whose 'intelligent house' boasts lights that switch on and off when hands are clapped. The scene in which applause at the end of a family violin concert prompts lights to indecisively go on and off, is funny, indeed.
A lot of life doesn't look good written down, Gordie tells 10 year old Lottie (Emilia Jones), when she confides the details of her notebook. He adds that we shouldn't judge or fight with those we love and that we are all ridiculous to some extent. It's that sense of the ridiculous that the filmmakers have beautifully captured. The elements are as incongruous as they are surprising. These include ostriches, lesbians, throwing pumpkins and killing flies.
The three children steal all the scenes - Jones, Bobby Smalldridge and Harriet Turnbull as Lottie, Mickey and Jess respectively. Thankfully, they speak, behave and react like kids - with refreshing honesty. Some may find the resolutions to the many complex issues somewhat simplistic, but this uplifting and funny film has so much heart, that it is impossible not to be charmed. If only all our family dysfunctions could be resolved so easily.
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WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAY (PG)
CAST: Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, Billy Connolly, Celia Imrie, Ben Miller, Annette Crosbie, Emilia Jones, Ron Donachie, Amelia Bullmore
PRODUCER: David M. Thompson, Dan Winch
DIRECTOR: Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin
SCRIPT: Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Martin Hawkins
EDITOR: Steve Tempia, Mark Wuilliams
MUSIC: Alex Heffes
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Pat Campbell
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 12, 2015