A British 2014 film, or to be specific, a Scottish film made by BBC (Alba) Films and Creative Scotland. Written and directed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkins, this film has a runtime of 95-minutes and was made with a reported budget of £3.5million, which it more than doubled at the box office (£10.7 million).
The film stars David Tennant and Rosamund Pike as Doug and Abi McLeod. The London based couple have split up and live separately but still have interactions due to their 3 children who live with mother Abi. Doug’s father Gordie (Billy Connolly) has terminal cancer but is due to celebrate his 75th birthday soon. His other son, Gavin (Ben Miller), is arranging a lavish party at their mansion in Scotland with his wife Margaret (Amelia Bullmore). When Doug and Abi arrive with their children it is clear that Gordie isn’t really that interested in a party, it’s more down to Gavin wanting to do it. So, wanting nothing to do with it, but instead wanting to spent time with his grandchildren, Gordie takes them to the beach while the grown-up’s prepare the party and squabble with each other. The kid’s love their granddad and his zany ways, on this beach adventure he reveals that he is 80% Viking and if anything should befall him he would want to be buried the traditional Viking way. This is useful information because while the kids are all happily playing Gordie unexpectedly passes away. Unable to rouse any grown-ups to help out, the kids set about making arrangements for their grandfather themselves. They perform a Viking burial, cremating him on a burning raft which is moving out to sea. On the kids return the news obviously causes a shock and all hell breaks loose as people come to terms with the death, and how it was dealt with.
I loved this fun and touching film. Not only is it a great advert for Scotland and the beautiful scenery shown, it’s also a lovely advert for life too. I went through a roller-coaster of emotions watching this film, and to be honest – I wasn’t intending to watch it. This cracker just happened to be on terrestrial TV one night and I had nothing else queued up to watch, so I gave it a go. I went from wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into, through enjoyment and sadness, ending with a warm fuzzy feeling that was happy at the gift of life. It isn’t necessarily a life changing story, it’s more just a reminder to enjoy the fun and simple things and try to avoid stress and arguments.
The acting on show is great, the adult actors in this ply their trade with class and guile – Tennant, Pike, Miller, Connolly, et al, all do a convincing and engaging job in representing their characters. Regardless of what troubles and stresses they are going through themselves – which is a lot, they are never far away from being lovable people still. Really though it’s the children who do an outstanding job here; Micky (Bobby Smalldridge), Jess (Harriet Turnbull), and Lottie (Emilia Jones). It could be argued that their performances were a little squeaky clean, but there can be no doubt that they really drive the film forward with what they do. There are times they almost steal the show from their more experienced and seasoned actors with their engaging sweetness. The acting is one thing, but it’s clear they are working from well written material here and have great direction, credit has to go to Jenkins and Hamilton. They have both worked on the hit BBC family comedy “Outnumbered” and they were able to lend their craft to a feature film really well. They have provided sharply written story which was both realistic and bordered on absurd, it had plenty of humor and pathos, and it captured attention from the audience too. While some taboos are covered in this film, they are nothing that the realty of life doesn’t throw at us all, this film does it with a heart.
I would be happy to recommend this family film. I didn’t intend watching it but am glad I did. I am sure that anyone with a heart will find some joy from this too – oh, but bring a tissue too, just in case a tear accompanies the joy.