Two women suffering from unfaithful boyfriends swap homes in California and Britain, respectively, where they each meet a local guy and fall in love. By unfaithful, I don’t necessarily mean cheating; rather, the cheating variety can be situated within the larger category of not committing to love one person completely and with fullness of heart. Such is the plot of The Holiday (2006), a film that is essentially about five good people. As the three unfaithful people are pruned out, the viewer is left with an optimistic feeling about human beings being capable of emotional intimacy.
The film opens with Amanda Woods finally getting confirmation that Ethan has been sleeping with a coworker. In fact, the deceitful guy is in love with the other woman. Frozen emotionally from the pain of witnessing her parents split up many years earlier, Amanda cannot bring herself even to cry. In an idyllic hope to get over the hurt by spending Christmas in Europe, she swaps houses with Iris Simpkins. Iris is in love with Jasper Bloom, whose engagement to a coworker takes Iris by surprise. Faced with the excruciating hurt from being in love with someone who has chosen someone else, Iris too goes with the idyllic hope that a few weeks in Los Angeles will lessen or remove the pain.
In England, Amanda meets Iris’s brother, Graham, who does not take long to fall for her. His love is real. Indeed, a deep connection can be sensed up front without meaning it is merely a crush. I think such connections can exist from the start, rather than necessarily coming about only after two people grow together. Amanda is paralyzed deep down, but she finally melts at the last minute and the two are together on New Year’s Eve.
In Southern California, Iris befriends Miles, and their mutually growing interest reflects perhaps a more subtle connection that can “fly under the radar” without detection. Arthur Abbott, a retired screenwriter and neighbor whom Iris befriends, sees the connection before either Iris or Miles, and Arthur’s good nature shows through as he acts as a catalyst. Even so, Iris is distracted by Jasper, who keeps in contact with her for selfish, inconsiderate reasons, and Miles still has feelings for his ex-girlfriend, whom he discovers has been cheating on him. She finally shuts the door (literally) on Jasper when he was visiting her in Los Angeles, and Miles refuses to give Sophie a second chance. Once trust has been sliced apart by not enough love on one end, even the other person being very much in love is not sufficient to heal the ruptured intimacy. Love must be mutual, or it is bound to go off kilter and crash.
In The Holiday, the people who are strong enough in character to say yes to emotional intimacy with one person above all others win the day. The film presents a world in which good people rise above the chaff. Life is not one big picnic with noodle salad for those people; Iris, Amanda, and Miles must struggle, for instance, to overcome their respective feelings for people of a lesser god—wounded souls who for whatever reasons cannot or will not overcome their inner demons and come the rest of the way to adult intimacy. As the last scene shows, much carefree freedom goes with the mutual intimacy, whereas the freedom of the deceivers is illusory, for they are trapped in souls too afraid to grow.