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Film Review: What We Did On Our Holiday


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Like most genres of film, comedy has many sub-genres. Recently, for example, The Inbetweeners 2 has shown that gross-out comedy can make millions at the British box office (£22 million in a month, to be precise) and 22 Jump Street capitalised on the popularity of the action-comedy genre. Just as The Inbetweeners 2 made the transition from TV to cinema, so too does the style of comedy found in the BBC series Outnumbered.

The translation from the small screen to the cinema is not always smooth, and TV comedies sometimes struggle to find a cinematic sensibility. But What We Did On Our Holiday, from the writers of Outnumbered, manages to not only make the transition, but does so in an engaging and feel-good way.

Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin have a very recognisable style of comedy, characterised by low-key and rather mundane set-ups and semi-improvisational scripts, all of which create humour which is funny because it is instantly recognisable. For their first cinematic outing, Hamilton and Jenkin have continued to play to their strengths by writing dialogue with which the audience can identify and by letting the child actors improvise, often to hilarious effect.

What We Did On Our Holiday is not, however, a just a rehash of Outnumbered. It provides the audience – as all TV comedies must in a move to the big screen – with something new and, in this case, a new family and an altogether more extraordinary plot. The film follows the McLeod family as they visit Scotland for their grandfather's (Billy Connolly) birthday party. The only trouble is, Abi (Rosamund Pike) and Doug (David Tennant) are embarking on a divorce and must attempt to keep this secret from their extended family. But when a day out to the beach takes a tragic turn, the three McLeod children (Emilia Jones, Bobby Smalldridge and Harriet Turnbull) take matters into their own hands.

The quirks of family life are amplified in What We Did On Our Holiday and whether it is the youngest McLeod child's perverse attachment to a brick called Norman, or her older sister's insistence on keeping a notebook with all the lies that she must remember to tell her family about her parent's situation, there are some very touching moments in the film. The absurdity of Billy Connolly's situation cannot fail to generate a laugh and even if the film just manages to stay on the right side of cinematic, the style of comedy shines through.

The cast is, most certainly, very watchable and features a whole host of British acting talent. Tennant and Pike play the antagonistic couple very well and Billy Connolly is on fine form as the grumpy, but sweet-natured grandfather. Ben Miller and Celia Imrie add to the ridiculousness of the story, but it is the child actors who give the most laughs and are a joy to watch. The snappy and funny dialogue sustains the film's running time and, for the most part, keeps the audience on-side even when the more sentimental sections of the plot threaten to spill over into saccharine schmaltz. The most affecting performances come from Tennant and Jones (who plays the eldest daughter) and their father/daughter relationship explores many themes with which any family can identify.

Love, death and familial bonds are all explored and it is credit to Hamilton and Jenkin's writing that the film always feels good-natured and warm-hearted. Although the whole set-up is ludicrous (in contrast to the everyday normality of Outnumbered) and the plot's resolution rather predictable, What We Did On Our Holiday rings true on many levels and is a well-judged observation of family life and its myriad of troubles and delights.

What We Did On Our Holiday is released nationwide on 26th September.

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