British comedy veterans Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin make their directorial debut with this painfully quirky, flawed drama set to the picturesque backdrop of the Scottish Highlands.
Hassled London-based parents Doug and Abi McLeod (David Tennant and Rosamund Pike) are in the early stages of an acrimonious divorce.
They bring their precocious brood of three north for grandfather Gordie’s (avuncular Billy Connolly on autopilot) 75th birthday celebrations, the catch being Tennant’s everyman wants the divorce kept secret so as not to trouble Gordie who is in the latter stages of a terminal cancer.
Once there, the family meet and greet Doug’s control-freak brother Gavin (frazzled fat cat Ben Miller looking even more like Rob Brydon than usual) and his own family, and it becomes clear that both clans are fighting demons of one sort or another.
As might be expected things don’t go according to plan, and following a truly macabre incident not really in keeping with the sitcom-lite characters, everyone learns a little about themselves before the inevitable happy, slightly rushed (the film clocks in at a brisk 95 minutes), denouement.
The chief problem with “What We Did On Our Holiday” is that it spreads itself too thinly. There are characters everywhere vying with each other to see who has the least convincing one-dimensional personality trait (Miller’s pressurised-yet-gifted student son, played by Lewis Davie, the victor here), and the short run-time is barely able to cope with the film’s improbable plot let alone add any worthwhile character exposition.
All this would be more forgivable if the characters were more likeable, alas squabbling Abi and Doug, a couple so irresponsible and mean-spirited it’s hard to imagine how they married in the first place, are the standard bearers.
The Highlands cinematography is at times spectacular, but that is about as close as “What We Did On Our Holiday” comes to standing out from the pack.