Review of Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)

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By Christine Iannicelli

Mr Holland’s Opus is a timeless classic; a film that speaks to so many people and on so many different issues. 

It follows the life of Glenn Holland, who dreams of becoming a composer.  The movie begins with Mr. Holland deciding to give up his career as a musician on the road and instead teach music at a local high school, hoping it would give him time to compose at night. He quickly realizes, however, that being a teacher isn’t as easy as he thought and doesn’t afford him a lot of free time.  Like many new teachers, Mr. Holland struggles to engage his students and quickly starts to burn out.  Still, he cannot quit for his wife is pregnant and they need some steady income.  What began as a temporary “gig” for this struggling musician eventually turns out to be his true calling in life.

Soon, this music teacher is inspiring students, getting more involved in school activities, and staying late to give private lessons.  Along the way, he helps countless students maximize their potential, including a shy girl who just wants to find something she’s good at and an athlete who needs to take band in order to raise his g.p.a.  As Mr. Holland’s dedication to his students grows, his symphony falls by the wayside and his relationship with his wife and hearing-impaired son suffers.  Will he ever find balance between work and family, and will Mr. Holland’s dream of becoming a composer ever come true?

When I first watched this movie as a teenager, I couldn’t help but see the similarities between Mr. Holland and my own high school music teacher.  Like Mr. Holland, my chorus teacher inspired in me a love of music and theatre, a passion for singing, and gave me a place within that small high school where I finally felt like I belonged.  He exemplified what a good teacher is and even looked like Mr. Holland!  A teacher now myself, this movie  appeals to me more than ever.  As time lapses throughout the film, showing us what schools were like in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 90’s, we see a lot of changes in the school climate but one thing remains steadfast: the dedication of the educators. 

Mr. Holland’s Opus is a wonderful illustration of a teacher’s life, portraying the highs and the lows in such an effective way.  It is a remarkably moving film and one that I highly recommend!

Favorite Quote from the Film:

We are your symphony, Mr. Holland.  We are the melodies and the notes of your opus, and we are the music of your life.”

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