Set around the turn on the millennium in Ecuador, in Holiday the country is on the precipice of turmoil as corruption threatens to cause a chain reaction that will implode the banking system. Rich teenager Juampi (Juan Arregui) heads off for a holiday with his extended family, but soon finds the problems engulfing the country aren’t that far away.
When he sees a group of people taking the law into their own hands and beating a small-time criminal, he ends up escaping with the young man called Juano, who comes from a poor Andean family. Juampi is introduced to a world he’s never properly seen before, where small-time criminality is virtually the only way to eke out something more than mere existence, but amidst the poverty is real life. As their friendship develops, Juampi begins to have feelings for Juano, but there may be limits beyond which one of them won’t take this stab at first love.
Holiday is a valiant effort that’s easy to watch but perhaps not as involving as it might have been. A lot of ideas swirl through the movie, with the story of young love set amidst a much larger situation of a society on the edge of collapse. However, it never really brings all its different ideas together. While it tinkers with how to pull together the societal upheaval, a country where the extremes over poverty and wealth are massively evident, and how that relates to its love story, it never quite figures it out. You can see Juampi’s journey into Juano’s life, and that seeing the class and economic differences has an impact on him, but what that impact might be is never clear.
It slightly feels like you’ve got all the ingredients for a great film (indeed, Central and South America has produced quite a few good gay-themed movies where romance sparks against the backdrop of societal upheaval), but it never properly mixes them all together. The result isn’t a bad film, but it is one that never quite fulfils its potential.
What does work pretty well though is the tentative romance between Juan Arregui and Andrés Paredes as Juampi and Juano, which is sweet and nicely built. It doesn’t go that far, but it’s still kind of nice. It ensures it’s a film you won’t hate if you watch it, but also one that’s unlikely to leave too much of an impression.
Overall Verdict: Holiday has plenty of ideas but fewer thoughts about exactly what to do with them. It’s a sweet gay romance where its numerous attempts to set it within a wider context don’t amount to all that far.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac