Story

What We Did on Our Holiday is a family drama about three children who travel with their parents to their grandfather’s house for his birthday party.

Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) have been separated for some time after Doug cheated on Abi. But they want to spare Doug’s terminally ill father, Gordie (Billy Connolly), any stress because Gordie is nearing the end of his life after a struggle with cancer. So Doug, Abi and their three children, Lottie (Emilia Jones), Mickey (Bobby Smalldridge) and Jess (Harriet Turnbull), agree to lie to Doug and the rest of the extended family about the state of their relationship. 

During the birthday party, Gordie goes to the beach to play with his three grandchildren, but he dies unexpectedly while he is there with them. When the children realise, they immediately run back to the house to tell their parents. When they find Doug and Abi fighting with each other again, the children take it upon themselves to offer their grandfather the burial he hoped for – a Viking-style cremation on a raft that floats out to sea. Afterwards the children return home and tell their parents what they’ve done. 

The police arrive to investigate, accompanied by a social worker named Agnes (Celia Imrie). Agnes is very concerned about the children’s actions and the quality of the parenting they’re getting. Doug and Abi now have to defend themselves and prove that they are competent parents.

Themes

Family and parenting; marital breakdown; terminal illness and death

Violence

There is no physical violence in What We Did on Our Holiday, but the movie does show Doug and Abi arguing a lot in front of their children. This upsets the children, and it might distress younger viewers.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8
Children under eight years might be disturbed by the scenes in What We Did on Our Holiday that show Doug and Abi arguing. They might also be disturbed by Gordie’s death and the events that follow it.

Gordie dies very suddenly while playing on the beach with his three grandchildren. Although the children try to tell their parents, they discover Doug and Abi fighting and decide instead to grant Gordie his final wish by sending him out to sea on a raft that they’ve set alight. Their action is discovered by the media and social services, who initially see it as very concerning.

    From 8-13
    Children in this age group might also be worried by Gordie’s death.

    Over 13
    Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in What We Did on Our Holiday.

    Sexual references

    What We Did on Our Holiday has some sexual references. For example:

    • During a particularly aggressive fight, a woman yells to her husband, ‘If you don’t get out of this room, I’m going to shout “Rape” out of this window!’
    • Characters refer to infidelity.

    Alcohol, drugs and other substances

    In one scene in What We Did on Our Holiday, an older character offers a child some of his prescription medicine to sell at school.

    Nudity and sexual activity

    What We Did on Our Holiday has a scene that shows a couple kissing.

    Product placement

    Nothing of concern

    Coarse language

    What We Did on Our Holiday has some coarse language that children might copy.

    Ideas to discuss with your children

    What We Did on Our Holiday is a touching comedy about the strength of family bonds, sacrifice and forgiveness. It’s also a realistic picture of a marriage falling apart, with secrets and nasty arguments poisoning the relationship between Doug and Abi. But the movie also highlights the way people can forgive, move on from mistakes, and give other people second chances. The movie shows how mature, compassionate and wise young children can be.

    Because What We Did on Our Holiday deals with family breakdown and the illness and sudden death of a grandfather, we don’t recommend it for children under 13 years.

    Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:

    • supporting family relationships and working out family differences
    • making sacrifices for the sake of others, even if this involves lying or misrepresenting the truth for someone else’s benefit
    • seeing how children can be mature, responsible and self-aware, while adults might lack these qualities and behave in childish ways. 

    This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues such as:

    • terminal illness 
    • the complexities of marriage, infidelity and separation and how parental conflict can affect children
    • the tendency of the media to manipulate truth for the sake of entertainment.