Review: A Young Woman is Caught Between Violence and Opulence in HOLIDAY

Danish/Dutch/Swedish coproduction Holiday is a divisive film that puts physical abuse, including a graphic rape scene, front and center in its tale of a young woman in the middle of a triangle — love would be the wrong adjective to use in this case — in which power and its seductiveness play a huge part. Whether the rest of director Isabella Eklöf’s film holds enough weight to warrant the explicitness of that rape scene has been up for debate since the film’s Sundance debut.

Victoria Carmen Sonne portrays Sascha, a twentysomething woman who is the “new girl” of Danish gangster Michael (Lai Yde), who has taken his extended criminal family on a luxury vacation to Turkey’s scenic Aegean coastline. Sascha is both witness to and victim of Michael's violent outbursts, some which involve family codes and rules, and others that seem to come from out of nowhere.

Standing in line at an ice cream shop, Sascha engages in a seemingly innocent flirtation with fellow tourist Tomas (Thijs Römer), who turns out to be a dashing young man who checked out of the rat race to travel the world on his yacht. When Michael catches wind of their meeting each other, dangerous games begin.

Holiday is a drama that contains occasional thriller and horror-adjacent elements — though it can absolutely be said that the rape scene is horrific in a way that typical scare fare cannot pretend to approach. Eklöf and cowriter Johanne Allgren take both an icy, distant approach to the story and its characters, and an in-your-face one regarding displays of violence.

This film is the work of a provocateur, one who leaves to viewers to decide just how willing of a participant Sascha is in her circumstances. That is, do the material rewards of the high life outweigh the physical and psychological pain she sometimes receives? Viewers may be quick to judge at some points, but the character of Sascha is both strong enough and enigmatic enough that answers will not come as easily as expected. Sonne gives a solid performance throughout Holiday, allowing viewers to get close enough to her character to feel sympathy and empathy toward her character’s plight.

Like all of the other criminal family characters in the film, no information about Sascha’s background before the beginning of the film is discussed or shown. What Eklöf shows is what viewers get. Watching Holiday is like being a dreadfully uneasy fly on a wall, close enough to the action to be noticed and swatted at.

Holiday, distributed by Breaking Glass Pictures, will be released on DVD and VOD on February 26.

ReviewJoseph Perry