How dark should a film go?

Anyone who is a fan of Outnumbered, will know that writers Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkins have recently released a movie, What We Did On Our Holiday, staring David Tennant, Rosamund Pike and Billy Connolly.  Unsurprisingly, it will continue to use the same techniques, (ie. unscripted children interacting with scripted adults) that Outnumbered utilised so well.  Yet, since its release it has received mixed reviews, with many choosing to focus on a particularly dark twist, which the movie makes coming into the final act, as a reason for it’s issues, as it contrasts with the tone of what has come before.  However, is that actually an issue?  Or was Hamilton and Jenkins decision, actually a brave one?  (I should mention this will be spoiler free, in case anyone is worried.)

To get the review portion out of the way, I actually really liked this movie.  I thought the twist worked and I could count the amount of movies that have racked up this many laughs in the past year, on one hand.  However, I can understand peoples issues, but I do think the criticism is unfair.  This movie is dealing with real life.  Tennant and Pike’s relationship is the best example of this.  They are portrayed throughout as two real people, with real people problems.  At no point is there relationship idyllic and at no point are they portrayed as the perfect family, they make mistakes.  This kind of real world situation deals with dark turns, because occasionally life turns dark and I personally believe it was a brave decision to take things in that way.

That’s not to say there aren’t times when films should stay far away from this kind of topic.  If this was a movie marketed at young children, it is a 12a, you might begin to question these decisions.  Although even then, if you have read my article on scaring children, I think it is too easy to believe all children want is rainbows and unicorns.  In fact, just listen to some of the things the children come out with in this movie, to prove that point.  However, there is no denying that you then have to be a bit more careful in that situation.  Children can often take dark and gruesome but more emotional scariness, like death, can be too much for them.  It leads to questions parents do not want to answer and should be well avoided.

The truth is, I really enjoyed What We Did On Our Holiday and if anything, the dark twist, is what has made it not just another comedy, but a movie which I will remember.  By taking such a risk, the filmmakers may have turned some people against the film, but they have also made sure that people will remember it.  Throw in the great performances from Tennant and Pike, while Billy Connolly perfectly portrays the kind of Grandad that every kid should have, and it makes what could have been an uneventful movie, when surrounded by hyped films like Gone Girl, something worth talking about.

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