“HOLIDAY” is now available on DVD/VOD after making the rounds on the film festival circuit in 2018. Premiering at Sundance from Swedish director Isabella Eklöf, this story follows Sascha a twenty-something trophy girlfriend of an upper level drug lord. She enjoys the luxury of life spent out on the Turkish Riviera basking in the sun and being spoiled with lavish gifts. But there is a darker side to this life that is exposed when she finds herself in a love triangle after a random encounter with another vacationer. One that will expose the concept of the importance of lifestyle over self-respect and human dignity.
This is a unique film to review. Unique primarily due to one unflinching scene depicting from all accounts an unsimulated rape scene. This movie will come down to whether or not you can overlook this short moment in the film to see the rest of the story being told. As a film critic it was still a shocking scene to see play-out. I can see the intention of the scene and the message it wanted to send given it’s placement in the story and the scenes that take place after. It was gutsy to put this in the movie and unfortunately I think it could come to hinder this otherwise interesting movie from being able to connect with a larger audience. I think the impact of the message could have been delivered with a different, more socially acceptable approach. But as a person that appreciates art and film-making I can respect the bold, and honestly brave choice made by director Isabella Eklöf.
With that topic aside and looking at the rest of the film I can say there was an intriguing story being developed. It was interesting to see this young woman placed with this older man engulfed in the criminal world. The story explores the notion of the importance of high-class gifts and a lavish lifestyle in exchange for being mentally and physically abused. One scene will depict a normal, soft spoken conversation over ice-cream. From an outsiders perspective is would seem like a common couple with a large age gap. But with the lifeless mannerisms of this young woman at times, is she happy in her place in life? She seems like a willing participant. But is she? Or is she brainwashed by wealth to the point her body is simply a tool used to acquire it?
Many questions were posed as the story slowly progresses. Interesting questions, but unfortunately it felt like too much was left for the imagination. With the raw depiction of certain scenarios from a visual aspect seeming like a focus. The fact the story didn’t continue building onto that atmosphere from the writing side felt more like a story not finished, rather than being artistically ambiguous. Early on the movie flows from one scene to the next capturing our lead character Sascha lounging in the beautiful weather with amazing backdrops. She’s wrapped in, and surrounded by wealth but it never seems to inspire happiness. Then another scene will depict Sascha being drugged and groped by her “boyfriend” which creates an awkward, but still ominous feeling. Then back to another sequence in the sun on vacation. This formula repeats a little too much without enough of a consistency to the forward movement.
I wanted to understand why Sascha had to be in this position. Why she had to subject herself to such degradation as a way of life. Every angle I came from it felt as if this was her choice. Being materialistic to the point of putting yourself through situations captured in this story doesn’t make for a sympathetic character as much as it results in the feeling of a superficial one. And in that case without being able to sympathize with her position it was hard to invest in the course the script would take her down. Despite a great performance from Victoria Carmen Sonne. She was very capable in this role. Her mannerisms and timid, but at times calculating personality captured the unpredictable intentions of the character. Had the dialogue added more foundation to the role, I think she could have certainly created a multi-layered character with a range of emotions to add some energy to the story.
The plot-line of this supposed love triangle also felt under developed. I think it should have gotten more screen time to break up the time spent with this random family Sascha was hanging out with. I think had it been given a stronger foundation it would have made the final-act come closer to being as impactful as intending. That would go with the backdrop of the main character as well. I enjoyed what it told me but wanted more and felt the dialogue missed some opportunities to generate more of an emotional connection. I enjoyed the movie in long stretches and wanted to connect with the characters and the situations more and in the end instead of being pulled into the film as mentally as I would have hoped, I felt like I was watching from the outside looking in with the investment level not hitting the substance needed to warrant the graphic visuals.