FNC 2018: Holiday [Review]
Full disclosure: Holiday is not for everyone. It is very graphic in some scenes, and it will make you uncomfortable. This is the directorial debut of Isabella Eklöf, and it’s up to you to know if you’re looking forward to seeing more films from her. Holiday is about Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne) who’s the girlfriend of an abusive drug lord named Michael (Lai Yde), and they’re on a holiday together. Whenever she does something that irritates him, she gets brutally slapped on the face. However, he doesn’t just hit her, he also does some unspeakable and unsettling things to her, which might be inappropriate to mention in this review. The movie itself has some relevant commentary that might intrigue the audience, but unfortunately this is a very unpleasant movie to sit through. That may be what the director is going for, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a very uncomfortable film to watch at the movie theatre.
While admittedly the premise is pretty straightforward, all the characters are bland and unlikeable. Actually, the only person that has some sort of personality is Thomas (Thijs Römer) who is mostly there to comfort Sascha. Still, that is not enough. You don’t care about any of them, so what’s the point of looking forward to the rest of the film? The people the main protagonist is hanging out with are bad folks, which is fine, but the problem is that they have no character development whatsoever. They’re just there for a couple of scenes, and you’ll forget about them as the film goes on. Having unlikable characters in a movie is undeniably tricky, but it needs some good writing and directing to make that happen. Victoria Carmen Sonne does the best she can, but she doesn’t give us a reason why we should root for her. Of course you don’t want her to be assaulted by Michael, but the script has some issues finding some form of sympathy and empathy for her.
The movie is ambitious, and that is worth mentioning for sure. However, if a filmmaker is going to take some risks, it still needs to be justified. Isabella Eklöf is trying to show that being in an abusive relationship is very painful both emotionally and physically, and that is worth addressing. You can see what she’s going for as you’re watching Holiday, but you still might be questioning some of the choices made. In one scene, there is something very provocative happening on screen, and it’s not an easy watch. You can’t deny that it’s a strong and thought-provoking moment, but it still feels a little unnecessary. Whether or not you’re fine with watching a graphic scene in a movie, that’s up to you. Another problem is that some scenes feel like they add nothing to the narrative, and it drags out the pacing. They don’t do anything for the premise or the characters, so you wonder why they’re in the film in the first place.
Holiday is a divisive film. Some people will appreciate what the director is going for, while some people will just downright hate it for being so unpleasant to watch. Obviously, you have to praise the filmmaker for being ambitious enough to show this premise in a disturbing way on the big screen, even if it’s a nauseating cinematic experience. It’s hard to tell whether it’s intended for the film to want to shock the audience provocatively, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s very hard to watch and you’re not having a good time at the movie theatre.
Holiday is screening tonight (October 14) as part of this year’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema.