The enormously charming "What We Did on Our Holiday," written and directed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, pulls off the difficult feat of telling a story about the darker things in life — illness, marital problems, family troubles — while remaining effervescently cheerful and silly.
It must be that dry British humor that helps decidedly morbid situations to play out as droll and even heartwarming. This spirit is buoyed by the gifted child performers who play Lottie (Emilia Jones), Mickey (Bobby Smalldridge) and Jess (Harriet Turnbull), the children of Abi (Rosamund Pike) and Doug (David Tennant). The fractious family is off on a holiday to Scotland for the birthday celebration of Doug's father, Gordie (Billy Connolly).
Although mom and dad are trying to hide their troubled marriage, their frank (and hilarious) children don't quite understand the concept of a little white lie. Their literal interpretations of adult ideas lead to quite the misadventures and mishaps along the way.
Despite the misunderstandings, everyone learns that secrets and judgment are not the ways of a loving family. It's a lesson that the quietly offbeat patriarch, Gordie, presses upon his grandchildren. The 7-year-olds and septuagenarians see eye to eye much more than other members of the family.
The film slightly rushes the resolution, glossing over the tougher bits of conflict, but the message prevails. Coming from the mouths of these babes, it has just enough sour to offset what could be treacly sweet.
"What We Did on Our Holiday"
MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, language
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes