Home » The Holdovers BFI London Film Festival Review – A New Christmas Classic is Born

The Holdovers BFI London Film Festival Review – A New Christmas Classic is Born

by Stewart Cole

During the coverage of any film festival, last-minute changes are common due to accumulated fatigue or sudden new screenings for more anticipated films. The Holdovers was on my original daily watch list, but if I had managed to win a public ticket drawn for May December, I would probably choose to watch the latter for the simple reason that it held my attention a little more. In the end, Alexander Payne (Downsizing) and especially David Hemingson (Whiskey Cavalier) made me regret thinking about missing out on one of the best movies of the year…

The Holdovers Review

Also Read: Poor Things Venice Film Festival Review

There is no more satisfying, truly satisfying feeling than leaving the theater with expectations completely gone, jaw on the floor and hands red from so much applause. The HoldoversThe premise itself doesn’t generate much excitement as it appears to be just another ‘Christmas’ story about lonely, strange, distant people who, when forced to spend time together during this festive, familiar season, help each other out. to cure the problems. that have marked or continue to affect their lives.

The Holdovers it tells exactly that story, but it’s far from just “another” movie. It’s true that it doesn’t quite escape the constraints of the genre or even the universal conclusion that any more seasoned viewer will be able to predict with plenty of time. However, Hemingson’s script carries the film in a truly mind-blowing way, as it’s one of those narratives that not only grows more complete and detailed as time goes on, but the audience and character connection grows exponentially.

Paul Giamatti in The Holdovers

Less than half way The Holdovers, a feeling of familiarity emerges, and it’s hard not to be tempted to think that nothing can surprise us. that Payne has no tricks up his sleeve, nor will Hemingson be able to come up with some kind of revelation or narrative point that will leave viewers speechless. This is where the shock value comes in, as it’s incredible how deep the script will end up being, both in terms of the main story and the respective character arcs. Studying the vital need for human connection to heal our inner wounds is nothing short of emotionally overwhelming.

Professor Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti), student Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa) and cook Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) are the flawed protagonists of The Holdovers. Everyone carries past traumas that linger very much in the present and insist on disappearing to improve the future. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, divorced parents, a difficult childhood/adolescence, or a life plagued by these same issues and more related to bullying, health and careers, they all have something in common … or something that others wish they had.

Giamatti (The Cinderella Man) portrays a teacher with numerous minor health problems but with a visual and olfactory impact on those around him. Hated by all for his strict teaching methods, his extreme integrity disturbs those who try to look out for the school’s “greater good”. He has a quirky personality and a strong interest in ancient history, which, of course, is not the most accessible topic of conversation for making new friendships or romantic relationships, leading to a lonely life and a lot of external judgment.

Sessa (feature film debut) takes on the role of a schoolboy left behind at Christmas by a family who is oblivious to his immense potential. Intelligent and creative, but brutally affected by his family situation and the depressing events of his past life, just like Randolph’s character. The cook lost her husband and son, forced to live with a sense of permanent mourning and little reason to look forward to a happy future. These are the circumstances surrounding the protagonists, but The Holdovers famously demonstrates that they need not define them as human beings.

Grief, depression, family separation, loneliness, alcoholic refuge, anger to bear the grief… these are not just sensitive issues that are thrown on the table and dealt with superficially. I have no intention of spoiling the experience for anyone still waiting for a chance to watch The Holdoversbut it’s hard to do justice to Hemingson’s wonderful care to get as much of each character’s arc as possible, to join the individual broken pieces into a common, divine puzzle, as well as Payne’s excellent tonal balance.

Yes because The Holdovers it’s also one of the funniest comedies of the year. Excellently separated into a dark, cold, colorless atmosphere – accompanied by a melancholy score by Mark Orton (Nebraska) – it is possible to find moments of humor as pleasant as hot chocolate and genuine human joy as comforting as a blanket on a winter’s day. Even the cheap insults that would probably be repeats of the one-liners heard in a thousand different movies are incredibly imaginative and memorable, eliciting quite a few audible laughs. Interestingly enough, the teacher is the one who gets the best lines of dialogue in this area.

Above all, the humanity that emanates from these three protagonists is the film’s defining feature. At no point in the film did I look at Hunnam, Tully and Lamb as fictional characters. They represent millions of people around the world with remarkable realism without cinematic, over-dramatic ties. Be it inspiring discussions on the aforementioned topics or hilarious sarcastic comments, The Holdovers it is always real, genuine… human. And, for that, the performances of the cast contribute a lot, all of them deserve nominations.

Even though I took my time in the second act, I have no problem stating that The Holdovers will easily become the next big Christmas classic, watched by families of all backgrounds. Personally, it is very rare to share these types of clickbait phrases. But the truth is that Payne and Hemingson have created a work of art that warrants these pervasive, cathartic reactions, as evidenced by the tear-jerkers of the highly emotional third act.

in conclusion

The Holdovers it left me in complete disbelief at how complete, thoughtful, hilarious and emotionally powerful it becomes with each supremely captivating minute that passes. A shockingly flawless script by David Hemmingson exponentially assaults viewers’ hearts through a truly profound yet bittersweet study of the vital need for human connection. The protagonists are brilliantly written as real people and beautifully portrayed by an award-winning cast. Add in a flawless tonal balance and superb performance by Alexander Payne and a new Christmas classic is born.

9 out of 10

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