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Featured DVD Review: What We Did on Our Holiday

October 5th, 2015

What We Did on Our Holiday - Buy from Amazon: DVD
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What We Did on Our Holiday

What We Did on Our Holiday is a dramedy starring Rosamund Pike and David Tennant as a less-than-happy couple traveling to his father for less-than-happy reasons. It hardly made an impact at the box office in its native U.K. and barely made a peep here. Was there a reason it was ignored? Or is it an undiscovered gem?

The Movie

We first meet the McLeods as they are preparing for a family trip. It's not going so well, because Abi and Doug are separated, because as we later learn, Doug had an affair. This has also affected their three kids. Mickey has become obsessed with vikings, while Jess has started to befriend large rocks and cinder blocks. Lottie, their eldest daughter, is handling it better, but still wants a list of lies she has to keep track of during the trip.

The family is traveling to Scotland to be with Gordie, Doug's father. He's terminally ill with cancer and Doug and his brother, Gavin, want to have one last party for their father. However, this party seems to have a foundation of lies. Doug and Abi don't want to upset Gordie, so they are lying about their marriage. Doug and Abi also don't want to upset their kids, so they are lying about Gordie's health. Meanwhile, Gavin and his wife, Margaret, are planning the party. Gavin was very successful in business and is going all out. Their son, Kenny, is the only one spending more time with Gordie.

Once Abi and Doug arrive, Doug and Gavin's sibling rivalry flairs up. This annoys Gordie enough that by the time his birthday arrives, while the "adults" are spending their time organizing the party, he decides to spend the day with Lottie, Mickey, and Jess. They first head to his friend, Doreen, and then off to the beach.

What happens next is a spoiler, as is what happened as a result of what happens next.

I've mentioned before that black comedies are hard to pull off, because the tonal shifts tend to alienate viewers. While What We Did on Our Holiday isn't strictly a black comedy, it certainly has darker elements woven into the comedy. Fortunately the talent assembled here is excellent. This film is co-written and co-directed by Guy Jenkin and Andy Hamilton, who previously created a TV show called Outnumbered, which was an excellent show. This film has a similar feel, right down to the semi-improvised dialogue. On a side note, this makes Billy Connolly's and Emilia Jones's scenes together even more impressive. They had good chemistry, but to know an 11-year old was improvising with a seasoned professional and she didn't feel out of place was amazing.

That's not to say there are no parts of this movie that didn't feel a wee bit out of place. I wasn't going to tell you what exactly that is, I wasn't even going to give a hint; However, they show some of it on the DVD case. I'm still whiting it out. I don't think it will come as too much of a shock that Gordie dies in the movie. He is, after all, terminally ill with cancer when the movie starts. However, he dies while he's at the beach with just the kids around. Lottie runs back to tell her dad, but he's arguing, first with his brother and then when his soon-to-be ex-wife. This would normally be merely bad, but just a little while before Gordie died, he was talking about death and funerals and how he didn't want a funeral, in part because people fight and yell. He wanted a Viking funeral. He wanted to be set adrift in the sea and set on fire. So when Lottie sees her family fighting, she decides she and her two siblings should do just that. This seems like an almost sitcom level plot contrivance. Like the two co-writers thought up this scene and then tried to write a movie to explain how this would happen. I'm not 100% they succeeded, because it does stand out. That said, while it was a little off-putting at first, the way it was shot and the performances of the kids help sell it.

On a related note, not too long ago I was talking with family and the topic turned to funerals. I said I wanted a Viking trebuchet funeral. That's where you light the body on fire and use a trebuchet to launch the body into the ocean. Or at anyone who has annoyed you recently. My nephew said, and I quote, "That's awesome. We are definitely doing that. We might not wait till your dead." So if I ever disappear and you see something similar happening on the news, you know who to blame.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD are standard for this type of release with an audio commentary track, making of featurette, and deleted scenes.

The Verdict

What We Did on Our Holiday balances the humor and the drama very well and while there's a certain plot point that feels a little too contrived, overall it is a very good film. The DVD doesn't have a ton of extras, but enough that it is worth picking up.

Filed under: Video Review, What We Did on Our Holiday, Billy Connolly, Annette Crosbie, Ben Miller, Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, Emilia Jones, Guy Jenkin, Andy Hamilton, Amelia Bullmore, Bobby Smalldridge, Harriet Turnbull, Lewis Davie