What We Did On Our Holiday (2014)

What We Did On Our Holiday (2014)

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Look, no hands!
Look, no hands!

Twitter Plot Summary: Doug and Abi are separated but have to pretend to still be a couple when taking their three children to Scotland for his dad’s birthday. And breathe.

Five Point Summary:

1. Stuck on the M25.
2. Scotland, looks very nice.
3. Miller or Bullmore, one or both of them are the best thing in the film.
4. Oh, that wasn’t unexpected, but even so…
5. Media circus, questions over parenthood skills.

One of the best aspects of What We Did On Our Holiday, the latest directorial effort of Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin (they of BBC’s Outnumbered fame) is the car journey that parents Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) take from their London home to the Scottish residence of Doug’s father Gordy (Billy Connolly). The sequence is clearly culled from a real situation, and is one that the audience will no doubt have experienced themselves at one point or another – the father who insists they can do the journey in one day; the inevitable traffic jams; the bickering and arguing. We’ve all been there.

This isn’t a typical family trip, however, as Doug and Abi are separated but putting on a front to protect Gordy, which inevitably leads to amusing dialogue and observations from their three children. It stands to reason that the facade will only last for so long, but this is only a starting point for the other gentle twists in the tale that go on to have a greater impact, before a bow is tied nicely around that plot point in the finale.

Connolly is nicely understated as the doting, laid back grandfather, espousing the mantra that the minor details of life aren’t important, even the little characteristics about our family that drive you up the wall – because that’s just who they are. It ties in nicely with the notion of not sweating the small stuff, because in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter. This is forced home by the kids’ observation that all the adults do, for the most part, is argue.

The three kids – Lottie, Jess and Mickey – are portrayed in a semi-realistic style which is similar to the technique Hamilton and Jenkin used to great effect on Outnumbered. Thus, it is clear that some elements of their dialogue weren’t scripted per se, and it works in their favour that this is the case.

Typical family stuff. Nice tower.
Typical family stuff. Nice tower.

Despite the focus on Tennant and Pike, who happen to be perfectly suitable as the arguing couple but otherwise, surprisingly, aren’t given much to do, the award for subtly stealing every scene they’re in goes to Ben Miller and Amelia Bullmore as Doug’s brother Gavin and sister-in-law Margaret respectively. Their interactions with each other and the rest of the family are a delight, swaying from hard-nosed pompousness to crazy shenanigans at the drop of a hat. A CCTV sequence and a discussion about where to seat bulimic guests (which is sadly spoiled in the trailer), both involving Bullmore, are genuine laugh out loud moments.

Leading into the final act the tone takes a slight but significant shift away from the one established in the opening two thirds as the household becomes surrounded by a media circus. It’s here that new questions arise, relating to the media’s interpretation of the facts and, apparently, how they swarm around a story with no concept of how that may negatively affect those they are targeting. Whilst perhaps not to the same calibre as the rest of the script it does at least make its point well, and wraps up what is a very gentle, very fluffy yet highly enjoyable comedy drama.

Score: 3/5

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