2018-08-23 / Commentary

Appreciating British Cinema

It’s not a criticism; It’s an observation

Looking for something to do and stay cool has been especially hard recently. I’ve resorted to television with high speed air conditioning. Last week, I’d exhausted my recorded offerings, was fighting a boring baseball schedule, and considering dusting off western CDs when I saw What We Did on our Holiday was being broadcast.

I love British movies. Waking Ned Devine, The Commitments, The Full Monty, are wonderful. As Suzy’s mother once said, subtitles would be great for some English movies, but you just have to stay patient long enough for the words to sound familiar. Trust me, they will and its worth it. And the movies are different from what we’re used to.

The former British Empire can be silly, especially to solemn, former Puritans who take themselves very seriously in the pecking order of the world, and worry way too much about offending any and everyone. There is always a sense of self-deprecation involved in English cinema. Those folks once ruled the world. They’ve accepted their demotion with class and humor.

The stable of former British Empire countries still make movies with actual, human based humor, honest reactions to real situations, and a reluctance to grab a special effects computer when the story line gets a little boring.

What We Did on our Holiday fits perfectly in my Limey Viewing List. A large family coming apart at the seams gathers for the patriarch’s birthday. He’s not happy about all the fuss and is definitely disappointed with how his offspring are behaving toward one another.

As elaborate plans are being finalized on his big day, Grandpa decides to take his three precocious grandkids to the beach. He distributes worldly wisdom to his offspring once removed, has a few laughs, and then quietly passes to his reward.

The kids try to relay that important development to the adults at home with overboard examples of bickering spouses, siblings, and near relatives blocking their progress as everyone tries to get the details down for the best birthday celebration ever.

The spunky grandkids find a way to give Grandpa the Viking funeral he wished for in a bit of miraculous cinema that is stunning in its humor, simplicity, and dead on critique of modern life.

The disconnect between young and old is played to extremes, with the family’s predicament going viral. News crews camp out at the home place and old secrets are discovered while the family does everything possible to resolve a horrible situation— everything wrong.

As everyone inevitably comes together tearfully during the film’s closing, You in the Sky by the Waterboys plays as the credits roll. If you don’t get misty-eyed, go see a cardiologist.

Most American culture has been done to death in American movies and TV shows. We know most of the plotlines immediately. Quite a few things could use a different look. Seeing the world through children’s eyes is a cliché, as is watching a culturally different people struggle with similar problems to ours. But if you’re tired of explosions every 30 minutes, and smart-ass heroes trading quips and never reloading, try something from across the Atlantic.

Get through the language barrier and you’re good.

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