This installment of “Traveling through the movies” takes us to the Highlands of Scotland, particularly the northwest coastal area. The movie is What We Did On Our Holiday, from 2014, staring Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, Ben Miller and Billy Connolly.
The basic premise is that Tennant and Pike are Doug and Abi MacLeod, a married couple on the verge of divorce, which has been very hard on their three children, ages about 4, 6 and 10 or thereabouts. Doug’s father, Gordie is turning 75 and as he is very ill with terminal cancer, the family is going to drive up to Scotland for a large birthday party, likely Gordie’s last. Gordie lives with his older son and family, Margaret and Gavin and Kenneth. Gordie is a bit tightly wound and Margaret is struggling with depression. Kenneth is struggling with his father’s high expectations. Gavin and Doug seem to have a long time rivalry.
The day of the party dawns and Gordie and the three younger grandchildren head to his favourite beach for the afternoon to get out of the way of the party preparations. While watching the children, Gordie dies on the beach and the children decide to give him the Viking funeral he told them he wanted, rather than have a lot of fuss and warring family members. They build a raft, and, using a spare can of gasoline from Gordie’s truck, set him aflame and push him out to sea. The repercussions are many but the movie ends with Gordie’s friends and family celebrating his life under a spectacular sunset on the beach.
The scenery is the real winner, here. There are shots of the car driving down roads with the mountains rising bleakly on either side. The beach is surrounded by hazy purple mountains but the water is blue and the sand white. It’s easy to see why this is Gordie’s “God’s country”. I’ve been to the Scottish Highlands a couple of times, and this movie certainly makes me want to go again, hop in a car and drive wherever the notion takes us. It’s a beautiful country, much of it remote and with single track roads the further north you go.
There are pleny of movies that are set in the Scottish Highlands but many of those are actually filmed elsewhere, Ireland being one of the favourite replacements. Many of the castles in Scotland are seen in films, including Eileen Donan (Highlander, The World is Not Enough), Duart on the Isle of Mull (Entrapment) and Doune (Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the tv series Outlander which has lots of other scenes filmed in the Highlands as well). A few examples that have scenes filmed in rural Scotland include Braveheart (Glen Nevis and Loch Leven), Prometheus (Isle of Skye), Skyfall (Glencoe), and a new upcoming version of MacBeth.