I kept seeing teasers and trailers for this movie, a BBC production that released in the UK last year. Former Doctor Who Time Lord David Tennant starred in this dark comedy, which was my initial attraction to the film. When What We Did on Our Holiday popped up again today I watched the trailer, laughing over one of the scenes, moved by another. I knew it was time to watch it.
The challenge was finding a way to watch! Although the movie released in the US in July, it isn’t available to rent as a DVD. I checked several online options and decided to rent via Google Play, watching the movie on my laptop. A first for me, that worked well. I’ll certainly use this option again.
What We Did on Our Holiday stars David Tennant, Rosamund Pike, Billy Connoly, Ben Miller, Amelia Bullmore, Emilia Jones, Bobby Smalldridge, Harriet Turnbull and Lewis Davie. The film was written and directed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin. The comedy/drama is rated PG-13, for adult themes and mild language, and has a run time of 1 hour and 35 minutes.
Doug (Tennant) and Abi (Pike) are admittedly a dysfunctional couple, struggling to hold their family together. The two are separated and headed for divorce. With their three bright and precocious children, Lottie (Jones), Mickey (Smalldridge), and Jess (Turnbull) Doug and Abi attempt to set aside their quarreling and head to Scotland on holiday. The family is celebrating the 75th birthday of Doug’s father, Gordie (Connoly).
Arriving at the Highland home of Doug’s brother, Gavin (Miller), the families clash as they individually sort through their own trials and challenges. Gavin’s wife, Margaret (Bullmore), has an embarrassing secret to hide, their son, Kenneth (Davie), chafes under the strict control of his father. And Doug and Abi’s kids are told to pretend that all is well in their family. They don’t want Gordie upset by the news of their impending divorce, and not just because it’s his birthday. Gordie is battling cancer, and his heart is failing due to the strain of his illness.
In the midst of the chaos, and in spite of his physical decline, Gordie is the calm at the center of the familial storms that rage around him. His joy in living, his intact sense of humor and his complete acceptance of others draws his grandchildren to him. He encourages each of them to focus less on thinking and more on living and meets them where they are, walking alongside, offering out of his heart.
And in an unexpected way, his grandchildren offer to him out of their own innocent and creative hearts, fulfilling his dying wish with courage and compassion, and a bit of quirkiness. Their gift to their granddad creates a greater storm within the family and the community, causing the adults to lay aside their blaming and their anger to search deeply within themselves.
This was a heart warming movie, filled with wisdom and humor and teary eyed moments. Anyone who is part of a family can understand and identify with the dysfunctions that beset this family. What I loved was that eventually each person chose to move beyond the challenges that no longer defined them. The adults began to act like adults, and the children were allowed to be kids, free from carrying the secrets and burdens of their parents.
Tennant was a joy to watch, in a role beyond The Doctor. And the three youngest children almost stole the show. Their funny but realistic perspectives on life and their ability to ask disarming questions made me laugh, and made me tear up, and made me think. Connoly totally captivated my heart. His portrayal as the fun, loving grandpa, short on time but full of life, inspired me and highlighted the importance of walking alongside others, encouraging them to be fully themselves.
I’m glad I finally answered the call to watch this film. Even without the engaging story and character portrayals, the Scottish landscapes would have been enough to make the movie worth viewing. As a bonus, there was so much more than that. Gordie tells his older granddaughter, Lottie, “The truth is, every human being on this planet is ridiculous in their own way. So we shouldn’t judge, we shouldn’t fight, because in the end… in the end, none of it matters. None of the stuff.” True words. I can revel in my own unique ridiculousness and appreciate it in others. No judging. No fighting. Because he’s right. In the end, absolutely none of it matters.