A holiday from hell is exquisite, expensive torture for a middle-class family and delicious entertainment for us in this comedy with ski resort, humor as biting as mountain air.
Edited by Tim Price from Ruben Östlund’s film from 2014, it cruelly exposes the treacherous cracks of loneliness, disappointment and miscommunication beneath the pristine surface of a marriage.
Price’s version is less restrained than the film – more wild, more fun – and Michael Longhurst’s production is extremely stylish and rises with panache to the challenge of representing epic landscapes and almost apocalyptic disasters. Its intimate drama is just as impressive, too Rory Freeman and Lyndsey Marshal toe-curled authentic as disgruntled couple Tomas and Ebba.
Jon Bausor’s design, dazzlingly lit by Lucy Carter, is so evocative that it makes you shake. An alpine area looms against a brutal blue sky, framed by the slippery curtains of the sleek, sterile hotel.
The white scene, drawn at a dizzying sideways angle, suggests both snow-covered slopes and crisp carpets; beds tilt out of the floor one moment, parades of superfit, super cool skiers whiz past the next with eye-catching grace and skill (direction of movement is by Sasha Milavic Davies).
Quite less elegant, as Ebba skews, is our fragile quartet, brother and sister Harry and Vera, clapping behind their besieged parents. While fumbling with the cumbersome set, Kinnear’s father is as distant as the distant frost peaks and itching to check his phone or sneak away for a secret smoke.
Marshals Ebba struggles wearily to hold it all, rolls her eyes and swallows her anger.
Then disaster strikes. While eating lunch at a panoramic cafe, a “controlled” avalanche, designed to regulate the snow cover, threatens to go catastrophically wrong. In the light of the impending white-out – brilliantly realized, in all its disorienting terror, by Bausor and Carter – Tomas flees, leaving behind his wife and children. An act of survival instinct or simple selfish cowardice?
Either way, it cracks cracks of mistrust and casts doubt on his family and his own perception of himself as a man and a father.
Several aftershocks of moral judgment and sexual jealousy arrive along with Nathalie Armin as a glamorous roommate and Tomas’ old friend Mats (Sule Rimi) and his lively, younger girlfriend Jenny (Siena Kelly).
Alongside the viciously entertaining dismantling of gender norms and the dissolution of adult manners – which sees Kinnear sulking and barking like a baby and he and Marshal turning into quarrels – there is a clever subtext about nature in rebellion against human exploitation.
And we are constantly aware of the erroneous privilege of tourists, their meltdowns witnessed with polite discretion by the hotel’s cleaning assistant and tightly smiling receptionist. It is the mad bourgeois crisis impeccably observed, an exuberantly enjoyable collision of snatch and spectacle.