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  • Writer's pictureEugene

The Holdovers (2023)

Alexander Payne’s rich, complex and bitter-sweet film, set in a 1970s New England boys’ boarding school, was a runaway hit for us.  As one member of our discussion group said, “I progressively enjoyed it more and more and enjoyed the characters more and more.”  David Hemingson’s brilliant script, with some events based on his own experiences, must be commended.


We agreed this had all the hallmarks of a classic.  The chilly setting with real snow and nostalgic music of the time felt authentic. We enter the world of three very different individuals, all isolated and with complex issues, marooned in the boarding school for the Christmas school holidays.  There was such depth and subtlety in the way they are depicted. By the end of the film, we know not only what makes them tick but also how their world has changed.


Paul Giamatti’s Mr Hunham, a cantankerous Classics teacher, exudes frustration and disappointment. We talked about the relationship between the bereaved school cook, Miss Lamb, an Oscar winning performance by Da'Vine Joy Randolph and the janitor Danny (Naheem Garcia) - the kinship of two black workers in a privileged white environment.  Angry Angus (Dominic Sessa, in his first role) for some appeared physically mature for the role but his spiky and sullen performance could not be faulted.


We liked the quotation about how understanding history helps us to understand where we are now. The Vietnam war is there in the background, especially as the school cook’s son has died on service. The students at Barton Academy are avoiding the military college which will give a direct route into the war.


Our shorts included a witty take on honouring Paul Giamatti through a waxwork and a clip of a BFI discussion with the key cast members and Alexander Payne.  We welcomed two visitors from Connecticut.


There were a few group recommendations – the music of Labi Siffre, who we hear on the splendid soundtrack and the film Ordinary People. Perhaps in future The Holdovers will be another film we vote for to see again….and again.



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