This Christmas movie may not be everyone’s cup of eggnog, but I loved it. That’s thanks in large part to its charming leads, Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding. Clarke plays Kate, a struggling singer working in a year-round Christmas shop and recovering from an illness and surgery that’s sent her into a cycle of destructive behavior. Enter Golding’s elusive Tom, and this festive rom-com begins.
Unfortunately, I inadvertently sort of discovered this movie’s twist before I watched it. I like to think the twist is obvious and that I would have figured it out anyway, especially after a certain scene caused sparks…but no spoilers here. Nevertheless, there’s lots to enjoy along the way, and you do have a different appreciation of the story if you know the twist.
The story is inspired by George Michael’s song Last Christmas, which you’ll hear a lot in the movie (along with others), particularly in the London-based shop where Kate works. She’s a big fan of Michael’s, but I never got the impression this was meant to be some kind of tribute movie akin to Yesterday, so I don’t understand why people keep banging on about the lack of George Michael connections.
This is meant to be a Christmas movie, first and foremost. And you’re not likely to forget it, thanks in large part to Kate’s boss, delightfully played by Michelle Yeoh, who is obsessed with the holiday. She even goes by the name Santa and sells Christmas-themed knick-knacks in all varieties of bonkers and bizarre. Many of the scenes in the shop are just as bonkers and bizarre, and all the more fun for it.
There are a few incredibly cheesy moments, and some pretty awkward editing, but schmaltz can be forgivable, especially around the holiday season – and even somewhat earned when you’ve got an anti-heroine who’s cynical, self-deprecating, and an absolute clutz. These characteristics are mischievously displayed in bite-sized flashbacks (there should have been more of these). Clarke brings so much charm to her performance, and it’s made all the more poignant by the fact that the actress herself went through extensive surgery in her 20s.
One of Kate’s excuses for being the way she is: her mother. She’s played by Emma Thompson, who co-wrote the script with Bryony Kimmings. Thompson is funny, but her portrayal of a former Yugoslavian immigrant felt a bit caricatured at times. If it weren’t for the rest of the movie, which makes a clear and determined effort to be inclusive and pertinent to London’s socio-political milieu, I’d have found her performance a bit insensitive.
Her quirks are also foiled by her more grounded husband, played by Boris Isaković, who is actually Eastern European. There’s even a brief glimpse of the Blackadder Christmas special playing on TV – a show famed for its hammy comedy as much as its incisive social commentary. Even though this movie is nowhere near as smart or sharp-witted as Blackadder, Last Christmas makes a genuine effort to give you a movie that’s warm, fuzzy, and full of heart.
Last Christmas is in cinemas now.