The Holdovers (2023)

Directed by Alexander Payne

A curmudgeonly instructor at a New England prep school is forced to remain on campus during Christmas break to babysit the handful of students with nowhere to go. Eventually, he forms an unlikely bond with one of them — a damaged, brainy troublemaker — and with the school’s head cook, who has just lost a son in Vietnam.

What truly saves the film from pure sentimentality is its performers. Giamatti makes a meal out of his character’s caustic world-weariness, constantly launching into amusing anecdotes about ancient civilization even during the most casual of conversations.

Mark Hanson (Slant)