Review: Last Christmas

DIR: Paul Feig • WRI: Emma Thompson, Bryony Kimmings • DOP: John Schwartzman • ED: Brent White • DES: Gary Freeman • PRO: Erik Baiers, Sarah Bradshaw, Jessie Henderson, David Livingstone, Emma Thompson • MUS: Theodore Shapiro • CAST: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh

“Last Christmas I gave you my heart…”, inspired by the Wham! classic, the idea for the movie Last Christmas was sprung from these very words. Directed by Paul Feig and based on a story by Emma Thompson and husband Greg Wise, Last Christmas has all the cheesy romance of Love Actually, and the sadness and hope of Collateral Beauty. With the soundtrack filled with the catchy tunes of George Michael and Wham!, the cast made up of well-known and likeable actors (Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, and Michelle Yeoh), and the setting of London at Christmas time, it is very hard not to like Last Christmas. However, the critics seem to be rather ‘bah-humbug’ about the whole affair, with the film receiving 48% on Rotten Tomatoes; and yet audiences, thus far, have given it an 81% rating. Personally, I’m on the side of the audience, but I do have a weakness for romantic movies, and Christmas is my favourite time of year. Let’s be honest, Last Christmas is not one of these ‘powerhouse’ movies that will have people dissecting it for weeks, but it does have a rather poignant insight into the human condition. 

Kate (Clarke), and her family, escaped former Yugoslavia in the late nineties during the Yugoslav wars that led to the breakup of their home country. Having sought refuge in the United Kingdom, Kate’s mother Petra (Thompson) is saddened to feel unwanted and unwelcome in the country they now call home, with the introduction of Brexit. This feeling of being an outsider, a stranger, is one that runs within Kate; after suffering a major illness the Christmas before Kate hasn’t been the person she once was, she is unrecognisable to herself, and to those close to her. Kate is cynical (working in a Christmas shop in Covent Garden all year round would do that to a person), lacking in enthusiasm for anything in her life, and fails to look after herself. However, it is the serendipitous encounter with the charming Tom (Golding) that sparks an awakening within Kate, making her appreciate the second chance she’s been given. Tom shows Kate London as she’s never experienced it before, reminding her to ‘look up’ and admire the simple joys around her, something which most of us do not appreciate in our busy, ‘connected’ lives. Tom shuns technology, spontaneously dances in the street, and randomly pops into Kate’s day; he is everything she is not.

Inserted throughout the film are songs sung by George Michael, including one that has never been heard before, “This is how” (stay for the credits), a song from an album he was working on before his death. While the songs do not always necessarily act as a secondary dialogue to the story unfolding on screen, and sometimes feel randomly placed, I’m not going to complain to having “Freedom” or “Faith” played in a film; it is very hard not to bop in your seat. Some of the songs are used better than others, and some are more recognisable than others, but they add to the joy and sadness of the connection shared between the characters in the movie. 

With the blessing George Michael gave to this film before his death, it adds another layer of poignancy for fans of the singer, and the twist towards the end of the movie will leave you weeping (I defy anyone not to even feel a twinge of sadness). I’ll admit I didn’t see the twist coming, although some critics claim they could see it from a mile off and declared it clunky and outrageous in the extreme, I found it both heartbreaking and uplifting. It was an interesting interpretation of the words of “Last Christmas”, and I really liked how it wasn’t your typical ‘la la la’, rosy in the garden, Christmas movie. It dealt with issues such as mental health, familial divisions, xenophobia, and loss. This approach to the Christmas movie, along with the joy you get from watching Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding together on screen, and the great soundtrack, puts Last Christmas in my list of movies I will watch every single Christmas, alongside Love Actually and Home Alone.  

Shauna Fox

102′ 57″
12A (see IFCO for details)

Last Christmas is released 15th November 2019

Last Christmas – Official Website

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