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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Holdovers is a stunning representation of human love and loneliness

The Holdovers (2023) is a movie about finding joy and love despite the tragedies of life.

If there is one thing that will never fail to make me cry, contemplate my existence, and then be unable to think about anything else for at least three months, it’s books and movies set at New England boarding schools in the mid-to-late 20th century. However niche it may seem, from Dead Poets Society to The Secret History to If We Were Villains, this trope and experience has taken over a large part of my life over the past few years. Then, just a few weeks ago, a new movie was added to this list. 

Winter break boredom brought me and my sister to the movie theater with no real motive or specific interest in any particular film. When we finally decided to watch The Holdovers, it was done more by process of elimination than anything else, and I hadn’t even read the description until we were in line for popcorn. When I read the description, however, I couldn’t stop my excitement, and I was not let down by the movie in the slightest. 

The Holdovers, directed by Alexander Payne, is a masterpiece. It’s set at Barton, an all-boys boarding school in 1970s New England. The main events of the story take place over Christmas break, and while it might not perfectly classify itself as a Christmas movie, I know for certain that I will be watching it every December. 

At Barton, the students who can’t go home over winter break are required to remain at the school for the duration of the holiday. In a series of events that prove to be unfortunate for every character, the plot kicks off with five students begrudgingly spending their Christmas under the care of everyone’s least favorite teacher, Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti). Hunham teaches ancient civilizations and, while seeming passionate about the subject himself, is determined to make the class as difficult and unenjoyable for his students as possible. 

The Holdovers is nothing short of an emotionally riveting masterpiece.

In a seemingly miraculous turn of events, one of the five students’ fathers is able to pick him up and agrees to bring the other boys along on their Christmas vacation. Unfortunately, only four of them get permission to leave. When no one can reach either of Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa)’s parents, he is left alone at Barton with no one but himself, Hunham, and the cook, Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), for company. 

The rest of the movie follows Angus, Hunham, and Mary, in a picturesque whirlwind of arrayed quills, masked loneliness, and the immense kaleidoscope of human emotion. The three main characters face constant battles with themselves and each other as they struggle through both personal issues and clashing personalities that are destined to bond, no matter how much all three resist.  

The acting in the movie is phenomenal. Angus Tully was Sessa’s first role ever, and it is so obvious from his performance that he is destined for many more fantastic roles in the future. Sessa perfectly encapsulates every inch of Angus. His portrayal of everything from average teenage angst and rebellion to the immense loneliness Angus struggles with is spectacular. 

Alongside Sessa, Giamatti also displayed a masterful use of emotional range and character depth in his acting. The hated, mean, teacher who speaks in Latin to spite his students at the beginning of the film is unrecognizable by the end. Giamatti plays Hunham in a way that makes the character heartbreakingly relatable. Throughout the movie, Giamatti turns Hunham from a forgettable, angry teacher to a sad, lonely man who has spent his life avoiding anything that would make him happy, and then eventually to a less lonely, less angry friend, who changed both his own life and others all over one, dramatic winter break.

The Holdovers is nothing short of an emotionally riveting masterpiece. It is so much more than anything I expected and I can genuinely find no complaints about it. It is a story of human connection. The three main characters deal with the tragedies of life and the laborious attempt to find joy in it. The Holdovers is a beautiful story of the timeless, human search for love and our ability to accept it. 

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About the Contributor
Evelyn Alt
Evelyn Alt, Copy Editor
Evelyn is a sophomore entering her second year on The Central Trend. Outside of school, she enjoys reading and hanging out with her friends. Her other interests include playing with her cat, Minerva, and going to Barnes and Noble with her sister, Millie. She is excited for another year writing on The Central Trend staff and looking forward to everything in her future. Favorite color: red Favorite food: anything chocolate Favorite season: Summer Favorite books: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab and If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio  

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    carolyn AltFeb 3, 2024 at 2:14 pm

    Glad i didn’t read this before we watched it last night!! What a fun review to discover right after seeing it. Thanks for sharing a favorite with us!