This guide is from our archive. It was written by Rachel Helen Smith.
What We Did On Our Holiday is rated 12A for moderate bad language, discriminatory language, moderate sex references
The McLeod family are setting off on a holiday in the Scottish Highlands. Surprising, given that parents Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) are about to get a divorce. They have been living in separate houses – they fight constantly – and so the idea to take a trip together seems bound to end in tears. However, they have all promised not to talk about the imminent separation during the holiday.
It’s because they are planning to visit Doug’s father Gordie (Billy Connolly) to celebrate his birthday. Gordie is suffering from cancer and they are desperate not to upset him. However, the presence of Doug’s obnoxious brother Gavin (Ben Miller), his depressed wife Margaret (Amelia Bullmore) and their nerdy son Kenneth (Lewis Davie) inevitably makes things even more difficult. Indeed, it is not long before they discover that various family members are keeping even more unexpected secrets.
- Did you enjoy the film? Can you give any reasons for your answer?
- What did you think of the casting? Were the adult and child actors well suited to their roles and why, or why not?
- What did the film’s setting contribute to its feel overall? How would it have felt different if it was set in the family’s home, as was the case in Outnumbered?
- What did you think of the film’s improvisational approach? Did it succeed in creating funny moments and why, or why not? Which scene did you find the most humorous, and why?
- Did you find the film either sad or moving? Can you give any reasons for your answer? What challenges might face a film that attempts to be both funny and sad? Conversely, why do we often respond to stories that contain both elements?
- How convincing was the film’s representation of a couple contemplating divorce? What did you think of Doug and Abi’s final decision to divorce ‘humanely’ and what might this mean? What might people in your own community consider to constitute a ‘humane’ separation between a married couple with children?
- What comment, if any, does the film make about the viability of the nuclear family in today’s society? Why has Doug and Abi’s marriage failed, and is there anything that they could have done to prevent its breakdown? How do their children respond to their separation?
‘Do you feel that you have failed as a father?’ – Reporter (Imogen Toner) to Doug
- What different models of parenthood does the film present? How is Doug and Abi’s approach contrasted with Gavin and Margaret’s? Do you think that people in your own community would consider Doug to be a failure as a father and why, or why not?
- How did the film present the media? How were the details of Gordie’s death and funeral twisted to make a better headline? Was this an accurate satire of the media in our society, and in what ways?
- What different definitions is Lottie offered of ‘lying’? Is Gordie right when he says that in some circumstances it can be acceptable and why, or why not? How does our own society respond to lying and the way in which we should explain it to children?
‘Every human being on this planet is ridiculous in their own way, so we shouldn’t judge and we shouldn’t fight.’ – Gordie
- In what ways does the film convey its message that we shouldn’t judge others? Why is this message so popular in today’s society? Can you think of any counter examples in which our own culture does encourage us to judge others?
- What was the significance of Mickey’s belief in Odin? How might mythical figures help children to understand the realities of the world, and in what ways might they be a hindrance? What do the grown-up characters think about an afterlife, and how does this affect the way that they approach Gordie’s death?
- At the film’s conclusion, Gavin declares that the most important thing in life is to ‘love those around you’. Do you agree with him and why, or why not? Would you say that this is a dominant message in our culture, and can you give any reasons for your answer?
‘We all find out eventually who we are.’ – Gordie
- Is Gordie right that as we age we find out more about who we really are? What did the various characters discover about themselves over the course of the film? If life is a process of self-discovery, what might help us to uncover – or create – a meaningful identity for ourselves?