What We Did On Our Holiday (2014)

What We Did On Our HolidayIt’s Grandad Gordie’s (Billy Connolly) 75th birthday, and the McLeod brood are travelling up to Scotland to celebrate. For parents Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) this doesn’t just mean packing the car but preparing their three children for the task at hand. Gordie doesn’t know that Doug and Abi are separated, and given that the former is dying Doug is reluctant to cause him any more upset. Their eldest daughter Lottie (Emilia Jones) records this in her diary, along with all of the other lies she has been burdened with, while Margaret (Amelia Bullmore) and Mickey (Bobby Smalldridge) immediately forget everything they have been told. In Scotland, Doug and Abi help to prepare the estate for a party, organised by Doug’s brother Gavin (Ben Miller), while Gordie takes the children to the beach to play.

Rarely has a film looked more televisual than What We Did On Our Holiday. The first feature film from Outnumbered writer-directors Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkins, What We Did On Our Holiday — in its London-set sections, at least — could almost have been shot on the same set. The actors may be different but the formula remains the same: two exasperated parents forever underestimating their comparatively savvy kids. Go to the cinema and you expect to be transported to unusual worlds, shown impossible things and introduced to improbable people — not to pay over the odds for a front-row view of what could very well be your own living-room. Even when the action moves to Scotland, the somewhat stilted staging, cinematography and editing prevent you from being swept up in scenery — dramatic through it may be.

Disconcerting though this familiarity might be, however, it is far from deleterious. There are worse things than a bumper episode of Outnumbered, and once you have put any cinematic aspirations behind you What We Did On Our Holiday becomes instantly more enjoyable. They often say that film is a director’s medium, while television belongs to the writers, and the simple joy of Hamilton and Jenkin’s latest is undoubtedly the script. Rather than pursuing action the directors delight in distraction, and as a result find themselves focusing on scenes that other directors would have most likely cut, had they bothered to conceive them at all. It’s a well-known fact that movie characters never need to pee, and you’d be similarly hard-pressed to remember the last time you saw someone pack a car or search for their keys on the big screen, but here they do — often at length — and it’s as novel as it is amusing to watch.

Like Outnumbered, the children are the stars of the show (particularly in the second act when the adults are sidelined almost completely), leaving the professionals with little more to do than react. Some are better at this than others, and scenes succeed or fail depending on who they are acting against. Billy Connolly in particular seems to struggle to keep up with the youngsters, while Annette Crosbie being mistaken for someone from “Lesbia” is far funnier than the awkwardly whimsical conversation she enters into regarding Emu eggs. Luckily, you’re often laughing at the situation as opposed to the characters themselves, so this isn’t as problematic as it might have been. Even the sentiment works rather well, with everything and everyone settling into place in time for a really quite touching finale. What We Did On Our Holiday doesn’t just concern itself with the daily hassles of raising a family, but towards the end it dares to deal with the big stuff too — divorce, depression and death.

While on television they may have been Outnumbered, on the silver screen Hamilton and Jenkins are simply out of their depth. Luckily for them, theatrical runs are relatively short-lived, and before long audiences will be able to enjoy What We Did On Our Holiday at home, where it belongs — for there really is quite a bit to enjoy.







About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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