One of my favorite Christmas traditions is to watch The Holiday with friends. My college pals and I discovered the film senior year, and it’s now firmly slated in the annual holiday film rotation (usually multiple times).  

This year, I had the pleasure of watching the movie with my co-workers (because yes, I work with lovely humans who choose to spend time together outside of work). We ordered pizza, popped popcorn (and mixed it with three types of M&Ms), indulged in brownies and graham cracker dessert dip and generous glasses of wine. Christmas movie night is a beloved office bonding tradition, and this year The Holiday really brought us closer together.

If you haven’t seen the movie, there are two main storylines. Kate Winslet (Iris) and Cameron Diaz (Amanda) switch homes for two weeks during the Christmas holiday in an Airbnb-esque house-swap situation. Iris and Amanda end up in L.A. and England respectively, both on journeys of self-discovery, and end up finding love across the globe.

My boss, who had never seen the movie before, had some very on-brand logistical questions about the plot. For example, of Amanda’s love interest played by Jude Law: “Does she know whether he’s gainfully employed?” And re: Iris’ decision to spontaneously travel abroad: “How does she have enough vacation days for this?”

While Jude Law is the perfectly written British love interest, my favorite storyline of the movie is between Iris and Amanda’s elderly neighbor, Arthur. Shortly after moving into Amanda’s house, Iris finds Arthur lost while walking outside. She helps him home, and Iris and Arthur quickly become close friends.

It doesn’t take long for Iris to discover that Arthur was a major player in the film industry. As Iris gets to know Arthur, she learns he has been asked to attend an event that would honor his life’s work, but he is incredibly humble and refuses to allow the ceremony for fear he would embarrass himself.  

When Iris originally travels to California, she is struggling to stand up for herself and have what Arthur calls “gumption.” Through their incredibly wholesome friendship, Arthur encourages Iris to be the “leading lady of her own life,” and to take ownership of her choices and her future (we love a main character moment). In turn, Iris helps Arthur build the confidence he needs to step into the limelight and accept recognition for his meaningful work.

The ramifications of this friendship were life-changing for both Arthur and Iris: they challenge one other in a safe and accepting space and therefore give each other the freedom to grow and discover that they’re capable of more. Through the firm foundation of their friendship, they both ultimately find great courage and gumption.

The unlikely bond between Arthur and Iris blossomed because they were both curious and open to getting to know one another, to having difficult conversations, and to making sacrifices to help each other grow. When reflecting on her time in California following a heartbreak in England, Iris says, “And after all that, you’ll go somewhere new, and you’ll meet people who make you feel worthwhile again.” As much as Arthur and Iris did their own personal growth work, they needed each other to find their gumption, and that is one of the greatest gifts of friendship.


  1. Courtney Zonnefeld

    THE HOLIDAY is a Christmas tradition for my housemate and me, too, and I immediately thought of this movie as soon as I read “gumption” in your title.
    My logistic question for this movie always centers around how Kate Winslet and Jude Law’s characters manage to afford such incredible mansions on writer and editor salaries. (My current theory is that their mother is the publisher-president of the house where Jude Law is an editor.)

    I love how this movie spotlights friendship as well as romance, and this is a lovely exploration of how and why Iris and Arthur’s relationship works so well.

    • Olivia Harre

      I absolutely associate the word gumption with this movie now! And such a great point re: their houses…I agree with your assessment though that sounds the most plausible.
      Thank you for reading 🙂


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