Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

New England nostalgia wrapped up into an instant Christmas classic

Keely Menyhart

The latest New England Christmas movie has hit theaters and brings 70s nostalgia back to our hearts. 

“The Holdovers,” starring Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa was released Nov. 10  and tells the story of a harsh boarding school teacher and a rebellious rich kid stuck at boarding school over the holiday break butting heads and fighting throughout the Christmas season.  

Setting the scene at a New England boarding school in the early 1970s, viewers meet Angus Tully, portrayed by Sessa. In his debut role, Sessa plays a junior at Barton Academy who is a stand-out student for his grades and contradicting behavior. While acting out, Angus constantly maintains the highest grade in the most difficult class taught at the school by teacher Paul Hunham, portrayed by Giamatti. 

The two have the company of Mary Lamb, played by Da’Vine Joy Randolph, the kitchen manager who recently lost her son in the Vietnam War. The gang of misfits work together to get along as much as they can while being trapped during the time of the year known for being with family. 

Over the two weeks that they are trapped in the school, the three start to learn more about each other and form a bond that can only be found in a family unit. Over the days, Mr. Hunham starts to peel back more of his layers and give more of a reason why he is considered the most hated teacher in the school. 

Adding to the intriguing and entertaining story plot is Giamitti’s execution of his character. The beloved actor gave an amazing performance that left audiences stunned at how he took on the complex character of a teacher who is the furthest thing from a people pleaser dealing with the loneliness of life. Giamatti grabs viewers’ attention leading them to want to know everything about this character. His performance is everything that critics should consider award-worthy.

Mary is the not-so-uncommon depiction of grief that can come during the holiday season — while dealing with her new life, she is grieving the reality that she once knew during the time that family and togetherness means the most. 

Randolph gives an unforgettable performance that enhances the movie thoroughly through the feeling of losing track of what is important after experiencing an extreme life change. The heartbreak and loss that Mary is experiencing are ones that, almost eerily, audience members can resonate with no matter their circumstances.

Slowly and surely, Angus opens up to his teacher about how losing his father has changed his life and his outlook on life itself. The teen spends his days constantly acting out and picking fights with other students, however, you start to see his softer interior as the film progresses. Viewers begin to see the cracks in the aggressive facade that the young man puts up to cover the grief, sadness and stress that consumes him. 

Sessa creates a character that anyone can relate to no matter their age. He is able to give viewers a look from the outside into how teenagers act during the formative years of their childhood. He leaves audiences wanting more and increasingly more excited for his very promising film career. 

The performance these actors portray is unforgettable and heartwarming in many ways. Their found family and strong relationship that grows throughout the story will bring any viewer to tears.

This movie details the complex relationship between three severely broken people, leaning on each other for comfort during the time of year when family and those relationships mean the most. 

A film of this nature has brought the retro themes and realities back into theaters with a cozy vintage Christmas movie that touches on deeper topics rather than the recycled Hallmark Christmas movies that viewers love to hate. 

Another aspect of this movie that may resonate with viewers is the scenery and location. Some scenes are shot in places that are very familiar to the Suffolk University community. Angus and Mr. Hunham visit Brattle Books which is located right across from the 10 West residence hall along with The Orpheum Theater which is directly next to Sargent Hall along with many other familiar locations around Boston proper. 

Throughout the movie, the audience is reminded that family can go deeper than blood and that finding those who care about you may be unexpected yet welcomed with open arms. 

Leaving audiences with tears in their eyes, “The Holdovers” will become the next Christmas Classic only if audiences let it. While this film has not had much press around it due to the SAG-AFTRA strike that pushed entertainment back for a few months, the story is guaranteed to make you want to hold your loved ones closer. 

While this movie’s theme may feel ancient, the 70s were not too long ago, leaving some audience members recalling their childhood memories that they didn’t know they had forgotten. This Christmas season may be leading into a new year, however, focusing on the past may be the right way to celebrate. This film is guaranteed to become a Christmas classic.

“The Holdovers” is currently playing in theaters.

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About the Contributor
Keely Menyhart, Arts & Entertainment Editor | she/her

Keely is a junior from Merritt Island, Florida. She is majoring in journalism with a print/web concentration and a minor in advertising. When she is not writing for the Journal, you can find her walking through museums, listening to music or rewatching her favorite shows. You can also find her exploring record stores and obsessing over new music. Keely plans on continuing her work from the Journal after graduating by covering music and entertainment for news publications.

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