© Universal Pictures International Germany GmbH

The Holdovers
U.S.A. 2023

Opening 25 Jan 2024

Directed by: Alexander Payne
Writing credits: David Hemingson
Principal actors: Paul Giamatti, Dominic Sessa, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Carrie Preston, Brady Hepner

The Holdovers is set in December 1970 at Barton, a boys’ boarding school in New England. As campus clears out for vacation, a handful of students who have no place to go for the holidays are stuck at the school. In charge is Paul Hunham (Giamatti), a sour classics teacher who is unpopular among both students and faculty. Mr. Hunham looks down on everyone around him, insisting on maintaining high academic standards but infuriating the headmaster when he refuses to give the son of a senator a passing grade. As punishment, Mr. Hunham is stuck babysitting the boys, with just a handful of other staff members on hand. One of those is Mary (Randolph), the school’s head cook, who is alone at Christmas as she mourns the death of her son, a former Barton student who was recently killed in Vietnam. The boys left on campus suffer through Mr. Hunham’s strict regime until one boy’s father whisks them all away for a last-minute skiing adventure. All but Angus (Sessa), whose parents can’t be reached to give him permission to leave campus. Suddenly it’s an odd miserable trio of Paul, Mary, and Angus, and the movie really gets going as these three lost souls find surprising ways to connect.

The Holdovers is a perfectly blended mix of comedy and drama that is incredibly well acted—both Giamatti and Randolph won Golden Globes for their performances. Paul is such a flawed and unlikeable character, yet as the movie progresses, Giamatti peels away layer after layer of his crusty shell to reveal why he behaves the way he does and how he makes unexpectedly brave choices when push comes to shove. Angus is a boy on the cusp of manhood, played movingly by newcomer actor Sessa, and he manages to convey an incredible range of the teen’s bravado and vulnerability, especially as he forms connections with Mr. Hunham and Mary. And there, as the glue binding the two men together is Mary, the lone female character for much of the movie, who is trying not to drown in her grief. Mary is Black—Paul and Angus and most of the student body and staff are white—and the loss of her son is contrasted with the privilege that has kept most other Barton alumni out of the Vietnam War. Mary, with her raw pain, and Paul, whose pain is mostly hidden, provide a stand-in sort of parental structure for Angus, whose own parents are checked out. There’s so much going on in this movie that really works, from the story to the pacing to the acting. I absolutely loved it. (Diana Schnelle)

The theaters below show films in their original language; click on the links for showtimes and ticket information.
Interviews with the stars, general film articles, and reports on press conferences and film festivals.
Subscribe to the free KinoCritics monthly email newsletter here.