Directed by Paul Feig and based on the song of the same name by George Michael, Last Christmas follows Kate (Emilia Clarke), a young woman subscribed to making bad decisions. Working as an elf all year-round in Santa’s (Michelle Yeoh) Christmas store in London, Kate has somewhat given up on life and spends most nights drinking and taking home strangers. Things seem too good to be true when she meets Tom (Henry Golding), a caring night courier who re-opens her eyes to the more wonderful things in life.
After the trailer was released for this film a few months ago, we were all quick to make our theories about a twist that seemed all too obvious. Whilst the trailer wasn’t subtle in that it was a romance about a girl who had been previously (or was possibly still) ill, we didn’t know exactly how the romance and her illness would be linked, but it was easy to predict that they would be in some way and that the film was certainly going to be a tear-jerker because of it.
And although I had guessed how the story was going to progress, the cliched romantic qualities to the film were handled so well that it still felt like a completely fresh take on the genre, especially as a Christmas romance with some almost fantasy elements to it. It’s not a particularly original idea and I’ve seen it done both well and badly over the years. But even though I knew what was coming, it still broke me into pieces, which resulted in me being unable to stop crying for the whole second half of the film.
I find Paul Feig a very hit and miss director. Because he works quite often with his wife Melissa McCarthy who is often typecast in the same role, some of his comedies lack originality. However, he does often impress when he takes more of a risk, most recently with the 2018 book adaptation of the female-led mystery thriller A Simple Favor. And whilst Last Christmas could have been another Hallmark romance that should have gone straight to Netflix, it is written so well that it’s hard not to remember this as one of the best Christmas films of this decade, at least.
Not only are there the more obvious themes of Christmas and all-enduring love as well as the heartwarming message running throughout that life is worth living, there are also more subtle messages of how important it is to give to others at Christmas, views of sexuality in a different culture and, believe it or not, the effect of Brexit. With Emma Thompson having co-written the story, the current British political issue is used effectively, as it should be in any film about Britain’s current state. This allowed for some much deeper conversations between Kate and her mother (Thompson) which worked brilliantly alongside the more light-hearted moments.
How you come away feeling about this film will definitely rely on how you relate to it. For many, it will be just another rom-com with undeniably likeable performances. For me, I found Kate’s story incredibly moving regarding how she feels about having been given a life to live to its fullest but also pushed aside and told to simply move on with it. And I’m a sucker for both Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, so there’s certainly a lot to love about this film for many.
Not just because of the two leads, but the whole of the casting for this film is perfect. Both Clarke and Golding have gained some much-deserved recognition over the past couple of years because of their completely charming personalities. Clarke, especially, who is most well known for her more serious and empowering role in Game of Thrones, really shines in this. She’s so likeable, and it was purely because of her narrative and facial expressions that I was reduced to tears so often.
Golding can’t be faulted, either, as he and Clarke have a great chemistry that completely takes over this film. And whilst we’ve seen Golding alongside Michelle Yeoh quite recently in Crazy Rich Asians, she was another brilliant addition to the cast as it was great to see a cheesier and more comical side to her.
With George Michael‘s Christmas classic giving the film its title, his and Wham!’s music is used throughout the film to add a final sparkle. Most of their music itself isn’t used in any significant way for the most part, although the meaning behind the lyrics behind “Last Christmas” certainly are, but there are a couple of beautiful renditions of their songs which should also please fans, firstly of “Heal the Pain” by Kate’s younger self (Madison Ingoldsby) and later by Clarke and Golding, and then there’s Clarke’s closing performance of “Last Christmas“, all of which are standout moments.
Last Christmas is currently in cinemas or you can pre-order Last Christmas on DVD here.