The Holdovers

15 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD

Some of the most prominent figures in any young person’s life are their teachers. And of course you had your favourites, who were usually the most friendly and accessible.

But there were occasions when you would see those who gave you hard time – and yes they were usually either maths or history teachers - usually in a different light, like a school trip say to Dorset and an inexplicable visit to the Bovington tank museum, where you would appreciate them a little more, and perhaps come around to thinking that they weren’t so bad after all.

Alexander Payne’s film is a tribute to such teachers, focusing on one teaching in a well to do all boys school.

boom reviews The Holdovers
They are always so rowdy in the J.K. Rowling section.

December, 1970, and the students of Barton Academy are all preparing for the holiday season, as they get a chance to go home. But not everyone can, which means they need to be supervised over the festive period, and that privilege falls to Mr Hunham (Paul Giamatti) this year.

He is joined by Mary (DaVine Joy Randolph), the school’s cook, and five students who are unable to return home, for one reason or another. Like Angus (Dominic Sessa), whose mother has recently re-married, and simply wants to spend quality time with her new hubby, at the expense of Angus’ Christmas break.

For the next two weeks they have to live in close quarters, enduring one another as the world around them celebrates.

boom reviews The Holdovers
I promise you i won't fart again when you hold my hand.

Right from the off Payne makes it clear this is an old fashion film experience, in every sense.

There’s the visual aspect, looking as it does an authentic film from the seventies, credits included.

And then the story presents itself, which is simple enough on the surface; a small group who find they can’t get home, having to spend time with each other over a fortnight on the school grounds.

But then it becomes more of a character study, specifically of three characters involved, as their personal stories not only unfurl, but also entwine.

It’s old fashioned storytelling at its best, a throwback to cinema of old, and the perfect antidote to a world now getting bored of being saved by superheroes.

There’s a beauty to the performances here, especially from the young Sessa who makes a truly remarkable debut that is nothing short of stunning; his portrayal of Angus is sublime, that not only consists of the expected energy of youth, but also a wisdom far beyond his years.

It’s his relationship with Giamatti – who deserves all the Oscar buzz he’s getting – that is at the heart of the film. It is one that eventually transcends that of pupil and teacher and soon resembles that of father and son, a theme that runs through the entire film with a definite emotional edge, which may well hit true to those whose own relationships with their fathers were prickly at the best of times.

There’s also a bittersweet performance from Randolph, whose character is grieving after the death of her son.

Between the three of them there’s no escaping a lump in your throat at some point, as the story traverses some real emotional lows and highs.

There’s also a sense for having a spin-off film too, as a number of quirky characters set off on their own adventure at some point, and in Payne’s capable hands, that too would have been worth following.

With Payne not exactly the most prolific talent, with his last film being six years ago, the underrated comedy Downsizing, this gem is destined to be a retro-looking, modern classic in no time at all.

we give this four out of five