Holdovers, The

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Not suitable under 14; parental guidance to 14 (adult themes, drug use, coarse language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Holdovers, The
  • a review of Holdovers, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 19 January 2024.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 14 Not suitable due to adult themes, drug use and frequent coarse language.
Children aged 14 Parental guidance recommended due to adult themes, drug use and coarse language.
Children aged 15 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Holdovers, The
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes and coarse language
Length: 133 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Set in 1970, students at an elite boarding school, Barton Academy, who have nowhere to go for the Christmas holidays, remain at school and are known as ‘the holdovers’. Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) is a curmudgeonly, traditionalist classics teacher, much disliked by students and staff alike. When he fails to sacrifice his integrity by failing a son of a large donor, the principal Dr Woodrup (Andrew Garman), also a former student of Hunham’s, punishes him by giving him the job of supervising the holdovers.

Hunham is joined by Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) the head cook, Danny (Naheem Garcia) the janitor, and students: Teddy Kountze (Brady Hepner), Jason Smith (Michael Provost), Ye-Joon Park (Jim Kaplan), and Alex Ollerman (Ian Dolley). Another student joins them, Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa), whose planned holiday to St Kitts is cancelled by his mother and new husband at the last minute. Angus is a brilliant but troubled young man who causes trouble for all around him. Just before Christmas Day, one of the boy’s parents arrive in a helicopter to take the boys on a skiing trip, however, Angus cannot go as Hunham has been unable to contact his mother to get permission. Hunham and Angus spend the next few weeks getting to know each other and discover that they are more alike than either could have imagined.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Boarding School; Parental Abandonment; Integrity; Self-discovery; Mental Health.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, including:

  • Some verbal arguing and shouting.
  • A racist remark is made to the Korean student, Ye-Joon.
  • Angus yells insults at Koontze, who ends up punching Angus. The two end up in a fight but separate before Hunham can determine who was the instigator.
  • Angus runs away from Hunham and disobeys him by going into the gymnasium. He jumps over a pommel horse and dislocates his shoulder. He screams in agony.
  • Angus upsets a man in a bar who has an artificial arm with a hook for a hand. The man becomes very aggressive and threatens Angus, He chases him out of the pub and Hunham manages to placate him.
  • Hunham admits to Angus that he hit a man with his car after he accused him of plagiarism when he was an academic at Harvard. In fact, it was the other man who had been guilty of plagiarism but Hunham was fired from his job.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

  • Nothing further noted for this age group.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

  • Nothing further noted for this age group.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Mary talks about her only son Curtis, whom she had put through Barton, and was killed in Vietnam. A funeral is held for him. Mary also tells Hunham that Curtis’s dad died in an industrial accident before they could marry.
  • Ye-Joon is seen crying in bed at night. Angus tries to comfort him.
  • Angus has his shoulder reset in the hospital and screams in pain.
  • A drunk Santa Claus is seen propping up a bar. He’s smoking and swearing.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • At a Christmas Eve party, Mary gets drunk and has an emotional breakdown over the loss of her son Curtis.
  • Mary stays with her pregnant sister and takes a treasured box with her. When she opens it, it is full of Curtis’s baby items, booties, bibs and a bottle.
  • Angus persuades Hunham to take him to see his Dad, Tom. Hunham thinks they are going to a cemetery when, in fact, Tom is in a mental institution. (He is a paranoid schizophrenic and has early onset dementia). Angus is so pleased to see him and tells him all his news. His dad, however, has no cognition, which is devastating for Angus. He tells Hunham how his dad was fine up until 4 years ago when he suddenly went downhill. He got erratic, angry and violent. Angus is worried he will end up like him.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Coca Cola
  • Jim Beam.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • One of the boys asks another, “What are you doing with women’s underwear?”
  • Talk about jerking off in the Cobb salad.
  • Hunham tells Angus that Miss Crane, the deputy head, deserves his respect, not erotic speculation.
  • Angus meets a girl at a party. She asks him if he’s looking down her shirt. He says no – then yes. She kisses him.
  • Sex is 99% friction.
  • Hunham says the fire in his loins burnt white hot when he was young.
  • Hunham takes Angus to a museum displaying ancient Greek erotica.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • One of the boys is reading a ‘girlie magazine’ during class, a topless woman is seen.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Hunham drinks frequently, at home, during the day, in bed – out of a bottle and while driving a car.
  • Angus drinks communion wine.
  • The boys smoke weed and share a joint.
  • Drinking of alcohol in various places, at home, in a pub, at parties, etc. Mary gets drunk one night and has an emotional breakdown.
  • Several characters smoke cigarettes and Hunham smokes a pipe.
  • Angus and Hunham both take Librium – an anti-depressant.

Coarse language

There is frequent coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Fuck
  • Fucking
  • Dick
  • Shit
  • Piss
  • Jesus Christ
  • Christ on a crutch
  • Bullshit
  • Arse
  • Arsehole
  • Goddamn
  • Screwed
  • Oh my God
  • Name calling such as:
    • Freak
    • Loser
    • Psychopath
    • Fuckwad (written on a photo)
    • Son of a bitch
    • Pompous arse
    • Dickhead
    • Penis cancer in human form.

In a nutshell

The Holdovers is a comedy/drama Christmas movie with a difference. It shows that not everyone’s Christmas is merry and bright, which is particularly true for the bereaved. The movie upholds the values of truth and integrity, and, as such, is very uplifting. However, due to the adult themes in the movie it isn’t suitable for under 14’s and is more suited to older teens and adults.

The main messages from this movie are not to judge people on face value as their background is unknown; and that adversity builds character.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Integrity
  • Truth
  • Kindness
  • Inclusivity
  • Understanding
  • Empathy
  • Loyalty
  • Selflessness.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • For some people Christmas is a lonely and sad time of the year. It is good to remember those who are less fortunate at this time.
  • Justice doesn’t always happen and life is often unfair. It is more important to choose how to react to such situations over which you have no control.