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The Holiday: ‘Like an EasyJet underseat bag, there’s not a lot to unpack’

This sundrenched, middle-class potboiler starring Jill Halfpenny is so unintentionally hilarious I can’t look away, says Lucy Sweet.

Going on holiday with friends is always a gamble. Will someone take the best bedroom and hog the shower? Or drink too much cheap wine and Say Something? Or will you all suspect each other of having affairs, cause a major environmental disaster and then be part of an improbable plot that leads to murder and rather a lot of awkward silences during a barbecue?

If you’re a character in The Holiday (Netflix) you will do the latter, because this show is an adaptation of one of those middle-class domestic potboilers written by somebody with initials instead of a name (TJ Hughes, PG Tips, TK Maxx) and a cover featuring a silhouette of a body in a swimming pool. And the tagline goes: ‘Three perfect families. One perfect holiday. Six hundred and ninety three deadly secrets.’ 

This was originally aired on Channel 5, where it definitely belongs, but it’s a lavish Netflix production filmed on location in Malta, with tough-yet-twinkly Jill Halfpenny in the starring role. Why they decided to treat it as if it’s actually a serious drama rather than a 99p Kindle thriller you read on the bog is anyone’s guess. But the effect is so unintentionally hilarious that it should become a cult classic, like The Room. I would definitely go to an annual screening of this so we can all have a drink every time a character: 

• Cuts their finger ominously.

• Cuts bread ominously (with a KNIFE). 

• Dramatically spills red wine (which looks like BLOOD).

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• Goes a bit too near a cliff (that’s a CLIFF, everyone).

• Plays with a lighter near dry kindling (please file this under ‘Spoiler’).

• Checks their phone to browse a comically bad fake website called ‘Snap Snap’ or ‘Eoogle’ with an intriguing message on it. 

• Swishes their hair in slow motion.

• Plays a game that looks like it might be fun (but will it end in DEATH??).

• Looks suspiciously at another person (actually, please don’t drink every time this happens, as you
will die).

Poor Jill struggles to keep it all afloat, but it’s like trying to pilot an inflatable unicorn on the high seas. She plays a woman whose name I can’t remember, who is a cop. This is important because she spends what should have been a nice holiday trying to work out if her husband Sean (Owen McDonnell from Killing Eve) is having an affair with one of her oldest friends. 

It could be Jenny, who speaks in a semi-unintelligible Swedish accent through clenched teeth and looks just a bit too good in her swimsuit. Or Rowan, who is exactly the same as Jenny, apart from she’s not Swedish. Or Izzy, who is meant to be a cool free spirit but spends most of her time on a sunlounger doing nothing. They all seem to be in love with Sean, and say things like ‘Oooh you look great, have you been working out?’ even though he’s really sweaty and looks like he’s just crawled out of a bin.

On top of this turbulent marital drama, there’s something very weird going on with their troubled teenagers, who are going off the rails. And will nobody think of the two younger children/dramatic devices whose names I also can’t remember?

Anyway, like a 32x48x32 EasyJet underseat bag, there’s not a lot to unpack here, but it’s also a total mess. Everyone seemed to have studied at the Joey Tribbiani School of Acting and I loved every breathless, gobsmacking minute – the big dramatic moment was so ludicrously funny I nearly dropped my Cornetto on the carpet. Suffice to say that their flight back from Malta was probably a little bit subdued, and may have involved some oversized, coffin-shaped luggage in the hold. Next year, they should probably just go to Butlins. 

Lucy Sweet is a freelance journalist

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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