Directed by: Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin | 95 minutes | drama, comedy | Actors: Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, Billy Connolly, Ben Miller, Amelia Bullmore, Emilia Jones, Bobby Smalldridge, Harriet Turnbull, Celia Imrie, Annette Crosbie, Lewis Davie, Ralph Riach, Ron Donachie
Below is the review of a comedy. True.
In a lonely spot in the Scottish Highlands, a 74-year-old man is waiting for his death. He has an incurable tumor and it is questionable whether he will reach his 75th birthday. Still, his two sons decide to celebrate that 75th birthday in a big way. They leave for the Highlands with their wives and children. What the dying grandpa doesn’t know is that his son Doug is on the verge of divorce. Because he was cheating.
Sounds pretty gloomy right? Yet “What We Did on Our Holiday” is a comedy with a remarkably high joke density. Those jokes are usually successful too. The fact that the dark subject doesn’t clash with the jokes is because of the perspective. We mainly look through the eyes of the children, and then such a dying grandfather and such a divorce – besides being a little sad – are also very interesting. Plus, Grandpa, an old hippie with a gray ponytail, doesn’t take that dying too hard. He’s 84% Viking, maybe that explains something.
What speaks strongly in favor of this comedy is its total Britishness. Over the past few decades, most of the UK’s mainstream comedies have looked across the ocean with an oblique eye. Again and again an American actor had to appear and time and again the typical British humor was doused with a good Hollywood sauce, including thick Hollywood morale. None of that in What We Did on Our Holiday. The morals are casually British, and the humor is (usually) sharp and irreverent.
The makers also score a good pass in his elaboration. The acting is top notch, with our favorite Scots David Tennant and Billy Connolly and the amazing Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”) leading the way. But the children’s roles are also well filled, with 13-year-old veteran Emilia Jones as the biggest attraction. The images of rugged Scotland awaken holiday feelings and the delicious folk tunes of The Waterboys give the film a festive nostalgic touch.
Is there nothing to criticize about this film? Of course. Some storylines refuse to flourish and some character leans towards the caricature. But if we could only visit one mainstream film this summer, this funny, sweet and clever comedy had a big chance.