Holiday season always evokes a certain emotion in all of us and that’s perhaps why holiday rom-coms follow a similar trajectory. Holiday in the Wild, a new Netflix film, checks all the boxes for a successful romantic-comedy film. It’s shot in an exotic location, revolves around a woman’s self-discovery and has a happy ending.
Kate, played by Kristen Davis (of Sex and the City fame) has just been deserted by both the men in her life: her son has left for college and her husband announces that he’s divorcing her.
Confused and heartbroken about having to start her life all over again, Kate flies out for what was supposed to be her second honeymoon but it ends up becoming a trip where she finds herself instead. Yes, we know. This sounds very cliched and all too predictable. However, there’s a catch.
Kate finds herself in the heart of an elephant reserve in Zambia, where elephants are rescued, rehabilitated and transitioned back into the wild. When you hear the word elephants in 2019, unfortunately you know what’s coming next: poachers and ivory trade. That’s exactly why and how Kate stumbles upon the reserve, when she finds an abandoned baby elephant whose mother has been killed for her tusks.
That is probably the only reason why this rom-com becomes positively endearing, even though the rest of the film is very superficial and everything falls together a little bit too conveniently for us to take seriously. Animal conservation is a topic that’s perhaps too heavy for the average rom-com but Holiday in the Wild does it nicely. Of course, the gorgeous backdrop of mountains and valleys of Zambia with wild animals happily running about also add to the narrative.
There is a lot to learn about elephants while watching this film. For instance, we learn that elephants have all the emotions that humans have. They have a sense of humour and a sense of family and community. Children want attention and teenagers rebel in much the same way humans do. Elephants are extremely sensitive beings with great capability to love and be loved in return. Therefore, the elephants in the film aren’t mere props but beings with depth and character.
If one is concerned about whether the elephants were put under any stress during the making of the film, they can rest assured they weren’t. In an interview with Glamour, Davis reveals how the film took four years to make and the reason she was approached to do it was because the producers and writers had been following her social media and were up to date about all her contributions as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR.
Davis has claimed that the film was difficult to produce because it had to be done in the most proper, ethical way. “It was really important to me, since we were making a movie about conservation, that we pay homage to the people who are doing this every day and putting their lives on the line to protect elephants and rhinos and all the other animals that are risk, and also that we not just use traditionally trained elephants in the way the entertainment industry does. So we had to find places that were actually rescuing elephants and that would allow us to film there.” And while Davis delivered a predictable, very signature performance (that we’ve seen from her time and again) she was the perfect fit for the character.
But other than the obvious focus being elephants, there are other themes that are worth looking into. For instance, we cannot possibly ignore Rob Lowe, who plays a pilot trying to help the reserve (and as the film progresses, we learn the sacrifices he’s making to keep things afloat). Lowe flies tourists out for safaris, which is how he ends up meeting Kate. Perhaps what makes this character endearing is that he is looking for love and hope, which is pretty much what we’re all looking for in holiday season. We’re either separated from our loved ones due to life and our circumstances, have lots our loved ones or either have no one to call family. And while that may not creep up on us during the rest of the year, this loneliness definitely becomes heavier closer to end of the year.
A theme that lies at the centre of this film’s universe but is not properly explored is the lack of fulfillment women feel because their self-worth is tied to whether they are good wives or mothers. Kate finds herself without a sense of purpose, or her career, when her son and husband leave. It is revealed in the film that she had studied to be a vet but gave up practice to raise her family instead.
So the closure of the film isn’t whether she finds a new love interest or not, but the fact that she finds some meaning in her life after 20 years of serving others.
It’s an unrealistic film, we get that. But it’s the holidays, and you want to feel comforted. We actually did not mind this film at all. It’s a light watch, endearing and undemanding film. Also, it’s safe from violence, profane language and nudity so you can even watch it with your family or children.