Holiday (directed by Edoardo Gabbriellini, co-star of I Am Love) is an enthralling contemporary drama exploring truth in the digital age, centered by Veronica (Margherita Corradi in a strong debut), a young woman returning home to a resort town on the Ligurian Riviera after serving a two-year prison sentence.
Veronica is released from prison early, after being found innocent for the double murder of her mother and her lover. Her story is told throughout three different timelines: the days leading up to the crime; the strained, painful trial; then re-entering society and getting her life back on track. Although the beach town setting is the same both before and after prison, where we are, temporally, in the narrative is very clear, as the characters’ moods, energy, and even naivete are so starkly different before, and after, this horrific crime. Veronica and her best friend Giada are bold, outgoing, and full of energy in their younger selves; and turn cautious and reserved two years later, having crossed the threshold into adulthood, with a new outlook on the world.
The girls’ friendship is all the more poignant, as contrast to the hostility awaiting Veronica for this chapter of life. In her social media feed, she scrolls past videos convinced of her guilt, replete with vulgar comments and threats, and she’s bombarded by photographers and onlookers wherever she goes. As a free woman, she’s still a prisoner, trapped in the empty Hotel Holiday run by her father Ivan, as a cruel foil: living on the idyllic Ligurian Rivera, a vacation playground off-limits to her.
When the majority of the world is unreliable, Giada is who remains constant for her friend. In an impressive scene, the two drive up through the countryside; the camera breaks from the girls and looks straight ahead on the road, as the two continue their chatter while the radio plays. It’s a surprising sense of equilibrium and comfort, set between a scene recounting the discovery of the victims’ bodies, and another of Veronica opining that people will always see her as a murderer. An unweighted, down-to-earth scene of two girls driving and talking about boys is a welcome, almost calming break from the heavier tragedy.
It’s a testament to its editing (by Walter Fasano, who also edited Call Me By Your Name and Suspiria) and pacing how delicately, and patiently, the story unfolds. The specifics of the crime are divulged mostly through the trial, in various testimonies and claims by attorneys, within just one of three narrative swim lanes; while the truth of what happened comes through in flashback, within another timeline.
The characters’ first impressions also throw us off; before the murders, Simona, an employee at the hotel, is a caring, secondary mother figure to Veronica; but after the trial, including Veronica’s release and being found innocent, Simona follows her in the cemetery where her mother lies, records her on video, and explodes in a confrontation with Giada. In the present, after her release from prison, Veronica’s father Ivan, the remaining parent, maintains a warm rapport with his daughter, only for a flashback, before the murders, to reveal a vicious voicemail he leaves Veronica’s mother, Elisabetta, who herself was previously a monster to Veronica. These snapshots reveal more about each character, not in a contradictory way but rather to complicate what we thought we knew about them, and further define these fully three-dimensional characters.
What’s also extraordinary about Holiday is how it takes young adults seriously; their portrayal and story is granted dignity and fair weight to the struggles and psychology of its leads. The girls take on typical teenager roles, learning to drive, gossiping about boys, going out to nightclubs; and their decisions also get them into trouble, with life-changing consequences, and they’re forced to grow up, almost too fast. With similar pulses as the series We Are Who We Are by Luca Guadagnino (a co-producer on this film), in Holiday the struggles of young people navigating through a challenging world, as literal prisoners of the older generation, are brought to insightful, captivating life.