BFI LFF Review: Holiday (2018)

Holiday is a beautifully brutal first feature from Isabella Eklöf about a petty drug lord’s girlfriend who is in for a holiday she’ll never forget in a vicious, powerful and fresh look at the gangster genre.

Fun In The Sun?

by Joel Whitaker


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

In a stunning debut from director Isabella Eklöf, Holiday provides a beautifully brutal portrayal of the life of a drug lord’s trophy girlfriend. Borrowing from the aesthetics of Ruben Östlund, the film doesn’t pull any punches in the ruthless treatment of its protagonist.

Holiday is set against the backdrop of the gorgeous port city Bodrum, on the Turkish Riviera. It begins with Sascha (played powerfully by Victoria Carmen Sonne) arriving at the airport. From here we see her attacked on all fronts. Within the first six minutes of the film we see her struck across the face, before being driven to meet Michael (Lai Yde), her drug-lord boyfriend. The abrupt and violent beginning to her holiday shocks Sascha, this is not the ideal vacation she expected.

Whilst hanging out with Michael’s group and taking part in what seems to be a fairly conventional beach holiday, Sascha meets Thomas (Thijs Römer), a handsome young Dutchman who immediately takes a liking to her. Thus begins a love triangle that plays out in the form of cruel power games.

Michael is, of course, jealous of the younger Thomas, who boasts about his boat. Michael’s jealousy culminates in an unforgettably revolting scene in which he violently rapes Sascha. The scene is shot unrelentingly, the camera staying still and in place, refusing to cut away from the horrors we behold.

The power games Michael plays with Thomas however continue to develop. He invites Thomas over to the villa for drinks, and reveals that he knows of his true feelings towards Sascha. Thomas concedes and, fearing his life, flees the villa.

Under cover of night Sascha goes to see Thomas on his boat, to try and run away with him. However, Thomas has had enough of them both, and pushes Sascha away, calling her insane. In a fit of rage Sascha pushes Thomas down the stairs of his boat, killing him. She considers telling the police, however instead uses Michael’s friends to help cover up the murder.?

Holiday is a vicious, powerful and fresh look at the gangster genre. It’s bright candy-coloured palette pumps femininity into the usually hyper-masculine field, contrasting with its dark and intense narrative. It reveals a powerful female voice in Sascha, a woman who takes agency where she can, and learns to use what power she has to make her world liveable.

Though the film may see controversy for its unremitting rape scene, it feels only right to include it, especially considering the wider political climate (i.e. the #MeToo movement). The scene does not glorify its content at all, and though it may be a difficult watch, is a reality we should not be shying away from. The scene is a powerful declaration that savage moments such as this occur far too often, and that what our female protagonist faces is all too ordinary for women across the globe. The film leaves the viewer feeling shaken, for the better, and announces Isabella Eklöf as a bold new voice in European cinema.

Holiday premiered at Sundance and screened at the BFI London Film Festival on 15,16 and 17 October 2018.

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