Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin’s What We Did on Our Holiday is a very British comedy about a family that’s nuclear in more ways than one.
Bickering, soon-to-be-divorced couple Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) gather up their moppets — Mickey (Bobby Smalldridge), Jess (Harriet Turnbull), and tween memoirist Lottie (Emilia Jones) — and head to the Highlands to visit Doug’s father, Gordie (Billy Connolly), for his 75th birthday. Secrets abound, as the children are under orders not to tell Gordie about the impending divorce, and Gordie reveals to Lottie the grown-up secret that he’s dying of cancer.
What We Did on Our Holiday spends a lot of time with the kids, threatening early on to be about the sprogs teaching the adults What’s Really Important In Life. That makes it all the more affecting when the film takes a surprisingly dark turn and follows through with its heavier themes of truth and mortality. (Those are presumably the “thematic elements” that earned it a PG-13.)
Jones and Connolly have terrific chemistry, particularly as Lottie works through the fact that adults encourage dishonesty and lying when it suits their own needs, and that secrets are more pervasive than openness. Unfortunately, it’s no secret that all family films have fart jokes, even this one.
What We Did on Our Holiday
Directed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin
Opens July 10, AMC Empire 25
Available on demand
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 7, 2015