Rating: 12A Cast: Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black and Rufus Sewell Directed by Nancy Meyers Written by Nancy Meyers Length: 136mins
In 2006 Nancy Meyers, who previously directed What Women Want, gave us ‘The Holiday’. Another light-hearted romantic comedy, telling the story of four people who are all dissatisfied with elements of their lives until some timely choices lead to a clash of lives which changes each of them for the better during the Christmas holidays. Amanda (Diaz), a movie-trailer maker from Los Angeles, breaks up with her cheating boyfriend (Ed Burns) and is obsessed with the fact that she can’t cry — and finds herself in need of a break. Over in London, Iris (Winslet) needs a break from old flame Jasper and his new engagement. So, after a very brief internet interaction, Amanda ends up in Iris’ picturesque cottage in Surrey, while the latter sets off for Amanda’s Beverly Hills mansion.
Though the plot isn’t particularly complex it is comfortable to watch. We see the issues for our two leading ladies laid out before us and can totally understand the need to escape and take some time for themselves. While the idea of a house and car swap being simple enough to organise in one evening ready to catch flights the following day is somewhat unbelievable, we as an audience are happily swept away with the romance and excitement of watching these women take control of their situation and find something fresh. What makes this film particularly interesting is that unlike most ‘Christmas’ movies, it encourages it’s viewer to take time for themselves, not just others. It highlights self care as a priority in a season that, quite rightly so, often focusses on kindness towards other people and reminds us that we need to look after ourselves as well as others.
What keeps this film moving is the multiple storylines. The main two, clearly between Amanda and Graham; the tug between a whirlwind romance and her high powered job and Iris trying to move past her feelings for Jasper. But throw in two children who have experienced loss at such a young age, a happy go lucky film composer who thinks he’s punching above his weight and a retired screenwriter and suddenly you have some layers that weave so wonderfully together. Whose arc the audience cares about more shifts depending on their own situation and experiences, it’s very clever really, it allows the film to remain relevant to it’s audiences over the years on one level, while continually giving that warm festive feel that brings it’s audiences back to re-watch year after year.
The Holiday is an appealing escapist rom-com that is actually about escaping one’s reality, a film where the core message is for women to learn to love themselves, with an added bonus of romantic happy endings for all. It’s a modern staple of the festive period, it’s familiar and easy to watch but with the opportunity to pull more from the underlying themes if you so chose.