Angus Tully In ‘The Holdovers,’ Explained: How Does Tully Change For Better?

In The Holdovers (2023), by Alexander Payne, Angus Tully, portrayed by Dominic Sessa, emerges as a character who has both relatable and complex attributes. Tully’s struggles with loneliness and his coping mechanism of rebellious behavior resonate profoundly. His reluctance to show vulnerability mirrors the hesitations we often face in revealing our true selves. Tully’s journey unfolds as a delicate balance between shielding his pain and extending compassion to others. In our moments of solitude, his character becomes a poignant reminder that behind every rebellious exterior lies a complex web of emotions, making Tully not just a character but a reflection of our struggles.

Spoilers Ahead


Tully’s Intellectual Brilliance And Loneliness

Tully, in The Holdovers, is a character who stands out for his remarkable intellect and an unfortunate sense of isolation. Despite being one of Barton Academy’s brightest minds, his brilliance is overshadowed by an overwhelming sense of isolation that he feels. The lack of interest from his parents, who are preoccupied with their own lives, leaves him feeling invisible and abandoned. He struggles to connect with others and does not truly have any friends or family to look out for him. Tully’s academic excellence becomes a silent plea for acknowledgment, drowned out by the festive celebrations that he misses while staying back with Mr. Hunham and Mary, the school cook.


Rebellious Spirit And Empathy

Tully’s rebellious spirit in The Holdovers becomes strikingly clear during his clashes with authority figures and his fellow classmates, especially Kountze. It’s like he’s got this fiery, defiant energy that refuses to conform to strict rules. Yet, beneath this tough shield that he puts up in front of everyone, he has a softer side that no one really knows about. Tully has an empathetic side to him, and it can be seen when he advises a fellow holdover not to expect compassion from the wicked Kountze. It’s as if Tully, in his rebellion, recognizes the harsh reality of their situation, as they are stuck with each other against their will but do not belong together. This very contradiction—his rebelliousness intertwined with a streak of empathy—makes him a complex character. What’s even more intriguing is how Tully, despite battling his own loneliness, shows a compassionate side. When a fellow student is having trouble sleeping, Tully doesn’t just stay aloof; he steps in to provide comfort. It’s like he’s revealing this softer, caring aspect that one wouldn’t expect from someone with such a rebellious nature. This duality in Tully’s character, balancing rebellion with empathy, adds layers to his personality, making him more than just a stereotype.


Tully carries a weight of emotional turmoil that gives depth to his character. His decision to label his father as dead, just to avoid the stigma of mental illness, reveals the profound pain and shame he harbors. It’s as though he’s trying to shield himself from judgment by declaring his father’s demise, even though it’s far from the truth. Adding to Tully’s emotional struggles is his strained relationship with his mother. Her preference for her new husband over her son deepens his sense of abandonment especially over the Christmas Holidays when he had prior expectations of celebrating the winter vacation with his close ones. Thus it pains him to realize he is truly lonely, as if he’s invisible in his own family, a feeling that amplifies his emotional turmoil. Despite challenging Mr. Hunham’s authority and rebelling against the school’s rules, Tully shows glimpses of a soft side The stolen keys incident, where Tully defies Hunham’s orders, serves as another testament to his rebellious spirit. However, his actions also lead to a shoulder injury, and in the aftermath, Tully reveals his soft side by ensuring that Hunham won’t face repercussions. This complex interplay of rebellion and empathy showcases Tully’s evolving nature and his growing respect for Mr. Hunham. Instead of exposing Hunham to potential trouble, he suggests skipping insurance to keep the incident discreet. It’s a surprising act of consideration, indicating that beneath his rebellious nature, Tully holds a soft corner for his strict teacher.


The Catalyst For Mr. Hunham’s Transformation

Tully’s role as a catalyst in Mr. Hunham’s transformation emerges as a captivating facet of their relationship. Their encounters provide a testing ground for the rigorous ideals that define Mr. Hunham’s persona. Tully’s unwavering honesty holds a mirror to the strict teacher, revealing the human side underlying his rigid principles and ethics. The catalyst effect becomes evident as Tully becomes not merely a rebellious force but an unexpected mentor and guide for Mr. Hunham. The honesty in Tully’s brutal assessments forces Mr. Hunham to confront his past missteps, gradually dismantling the walls of his pretentious self. It’s like witnessing a metamorphosis, where the mentor-student dynamic evolves beyond conventional boundaries. An instance that resonates deeply is when Tully challenges Mr. Hunham’s ethical integrity. Mocking the principle that Barton men always speak the truth, Tully questions the perfection that Mr. Hunham so rigorously upholds. This prompts a profound self-reflection in Mr. Hunham as he acknowledges the contradictions in his own life. The revelation of a falsified accusation of plagiarism during his time at Harvard becomes a turning point, unraveling the complexities of Mr. Hunham’s character. He becomes a true confidant to Mr. Hunham, who encourages him to embrace his imperfections. The journey to Boston becomes symbolic, representing an adventure of self-discovery for both characters. Tully’s influence goes beyond rebellion; it showcases the power of genuine connection and mentorship in the most unexpected dynamics.


A Journey Of Self-Discovery And Gratitude

The turning point occurs when Tully, driven by a yearning for his parent’s acknowledgement, visits his father in the asylum. In this vulnerable moment, he realizes that Mr. Hunham, his seemingly strict teacher, is the sole figure who genuinely believes in him. This revelation adds depth to Tully’s character, showcasing the universal desire for validation and connection. What initially started as a sense of disgust and reluctance to spend the holidays with his teacher and the school cook evolved into heartfelt gratitude. Witnessing Tully’s epiphany is a testament to the film’s exploration of the transformative power of genuine connections. The emotional climax unfolds as Mr. Hunham takes the fall and gets fired, confessing that he was the one who took Tully to meet his father in the asylum. This act of self-sacrifice deepens Tully’s respect for his teacher, transforming any lingering hatred into a complex mix of love, compassion, and empathy. It’s a cinematic journey where animosity gives way to understanding, and a once-critical student becomes forever grateful for the love and support shown by his teacher. As a viewer, these moments of epiphany and transformation resonate on a personal level, inviting reflection on the intricacies of human relationships and the profound impact of genuine connections on individual growth. Tully’s character becomes a symbol of resilience, self-realization, and the enduring power of compassion in the face of adversity.


Final Thoughts

It’s fascinating to watch these nuanced moments of transformation in Angus Tully’s character, which is quite riveting as a viewer. Tully, previously thought of as a rebellious student, grows into an unanticipated catalyst for Mr. Hunham’s self-discovery. Thus, his character truly demonstrates the potential for genuine connection and mentorship in even the most unexpected alliances in life. Watching his journey adds layers to the story by showing how complicated relationships can be and highlights the powerful impact of real connections on people’s lives.


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Sutanuka Banerjee
Sutanuka Banerjee
Sutanuka, a devoted movie enthusiast, embarked on her cinematic journey since childhood, captivated by the enchanting world of the Harry Potter series. This early passion ignited her love for movies, providing an escape into the magical realms of cinema. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in media science, combining her academic pursuits with her unwavering passion for the silver screen.

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