Review: “The Holdovers” Is Charming, Thoughtful & Heartfelt

Review: “The Holdovers” Is Charming, Thoughtful & Heartfelt

“The Holdovers,” in its simplicity, deserves all this attention



When you think of “Academy Award Nominee for Best Picture,” you don’t think small. You imagine a massive budget, notable names, a controversial story and multiple sets. You don’t think muted, understated or simple—but that’s exactly what The Holdovers is.



The Holdovers centers around a pivotal winter break for prep school educator Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti), troubled student Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa) and school head cook Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph). 


Hunham is a straight-edged professor, unyielding in his grading system and demand for excellence in the classroom. Tully, though intelligent, has been kicked out of several other prep schools due to his behavior. Mary, on the other hand, is dealing with the recent loss of her son, who died in the Vietnam War. These three characters, each with their own histories, lessons to learn and lessons to teach, find themselves stuck with each other for weeks in the cold winter of Massachusetts in the early 70s.



But while The Holdovers might be completely boring to a society that feeds on controversy, bombs going off and superheroes in spandex, it is brilliant in its simplicity. The beauty of the film relies in the acting—not just in the big feel moments, but in the small instances where Giamatti and Randolph speak volumes with a single look—and a script that flowed like a novel I wish I could hold in my hands. It is a masterclass in exploring character nuances. 


Hunham is aware of the fact that his students hate him and that his colleagues think he’s strange. Tully is constantly seeking the attention of his absent parents. Mary is not only dealing with the loss of her child, but that his death was completely avoidable—if not for the small matter of affording college. But throughout The Holdovers, we as an audience are given the opportunity to fully grasp these characters, lean into their personal losses and revel in their eventual acceptance.



It’s true that Hollywood has done this story before—of finding family and purpose in people that couldn’t be more different—but The Holdovers feels refreshing nonetheless. In a sea of nonsense, the film shows that being human is and should be the focus. It’s not always about the big speeches or grand takeaways, it’s about losing yourself and finding yourself. 


The Holdovers is smart and concise; but, more importantly, it’s genuine.



Art Macky Arquilla

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