At first glance, the title of writer-director Austin Smithard’s Busman’s Holiday seems odd, given what it is about. Distant family in Ireland hires retired police officer Michael Busman (Jamie McShane) to track down their daughter, Suzi (Meriel White Griotteray), who never returned home from a backtracking trip around the world. Michael uses the letters she wrote to her parents to track down the people she met and gain clues as to where she might have gone. This sends him all across the world, including Norway, Australia, and India, among several places. As he talks to who she met, saw what she saw, Michael begins to glean insight into the true purpose of Suzi’s lifetime’s worth of adventure in a single trip.
Yes, the unassuming title of Busman’s Holiday is a missing persons case. But, as the film gets into its groove, the name emerges as the perfect choice for this movie. While there are stakes present, Smithard is much more interested in observing Michael in the now and watching his reactions to both his falling apart personal life and the majesty of the cities, people, and natural vistas he meets/ experiences on the way. This allows an intimacy not usually present in movies about searching for missing people. It also means that McShane, as Michael, is burden with carrying the entire story.
“…hires retired police officer Michael Busman to track down their daughter…who never returned home from a backtracking trip around the world.”
Happily, the former Sons Of Anarchy star is more than up to the task. Whether it is calling his ex despondently or the beguiling way he puts those he talks to about Suzi at ease, McShane shines in every scene. When he asks Anders if she’s contacted him after leaving, it is both a plea for information and his way of asking if the Dane is doing okay. The subtle complexity embedded in that line, and most of Michael’s dialogue, is perfectly delivered by the actor. A strong and engaging supporting cast equals him in the varied and gorgeous locales.
Due to its commitment to Michael’s experience, the plot, such as it is, is less important. This means that if one has seen similarly themed movies to Busman’s Holiday, then knowing the why behind Suzi seemingly vanishing is quickly sussed out. Thanks to Smithard’s astute direction, though, the ending still packs its intended emotional punch.
Busman’s Holiday may have an ending that is easy to guess, but that does not diminish its power. Mainly due to excellent dialogue and strong direction, as the audience truly invests in this world and these characters. But, it is Jamie McShane who holds it all together in a truly outstanding, beautiful performance. Plus, the final scene is just terrific.
"…McShane shines in every scene."