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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.01.18] Denmark drama crime

We first meet Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne), at the airport, a stylish young woman apparently on holidays in a beautiful seaside locale that is eventually revealed as Turkey. It's quickly apparent hat she's not travelling for leisure after all and that in fact, she's on business and though it's clear from an early interaction that the business is most likely something illegal, it's not clear what she's involved with for some time.

Isabella Eklof's Holiday follows Sascha as she feels her way in this world of crime and though she clearly knows the people she's in Turkey to meet, there's also a feeling that she's testing the waters of what she can and can't get away with. Michael, her boyfriend and the leader of their band of drug traffickers, is clearly used to having women follow his every whim and though he clearly likes Sascha, there's also a feeling that she could be replaced at any time.

And so for most of Holiday, we follow Sascha as she mostly enjoys the holidays, picking expensive jewellery, having long lunches and dinners and occasionally brushing up against the more nefarious parts of gangster life.

For the most part, Eklof's feature film debut, which she co-wrote with Johanne Algren, feels like a meandering observation of the life of a trophy girlfriend to a shady guy with a violent streak. As the story develops, it's clear that Eklof and Algren have other things they want to explore and some of those themes begin to bubble to the surface when Sascha's flirtation with a man named Thomas catches the attention of Michael who clearly feels threatened by the younger man. This rivalry sets off a series of events which turn Holiday from a beautiful but forgettable drama into something far more complicated.

By following Sascha, Eklof gets at Michael's petty insecurities while also highlighting the wanna-be mobster's capacity for evil. He's violent and controlling and knows exactly what buttons to push to keep his people in line and Sascha is no exception. For her part, Sonne plays Sascha as a wide-eyed innocent girl but she's also smart and when that facade no longer protects her, she looks for other ways to make herself indispensable.

It's difficult to recommend Holiday because the violence towards Sascha is so blatant and repetitive, and perhaps that's the point; the normalization of it as part of this world that Sascha is buying her way into which makes you wonder where she's coming from that she finds this acceptable.

In the end, I found the themes of Holiday and the mental workout the movie provided post-screening really enjoyable but it's a difficult watch.

Holiday is currently playing the festival circuit.

Recommended Release: Miss Bala

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