Review: Last Christmas

I literally cannot remember the last time I went to see a Christmas movie at the cinema. I know my memory is bad but I am pretty sure it’s been a while. But after seeing the shorts of Last Christmas I thought … why not? I had read some so-so reviews but decided I would pay them no heed and took myself off in the pouring rain to experience some early festive cheer (I saw this in November of last year).

And you know what … I really enjoyed it!

Last Christmas stars Emilia Clarke as free spirit Kate, a young woman whose life is not going very well. She is, for all intents and purposes, homeless. She bounces between the beds offered by friends and one night stands rather than go home to her parents house and have to face her mother, the divine Emma Thompson, with whom she has a difficult relationship. She’s not on the best of terms with her sister but seems to get on well with her father.

She works at an all year round Christmas shop (dressed in full elf regalia) which is run by her long suffering boss ‘Santa’, played by the legendary and wonderful Michelle Yeoh, who herself is looking for Mr Right. We find out that Kate has suffered a serious health scare in her past and, as a result, is not coping well or taking care of herself as she should. She’s self centered and generally making a complete meal of her second chance at life.

God I am making it sound like a dark take of woe!

Enter charming stranger Tom (Henry Golding) who flits in and out of her life, possibly a part time bike courier who only works at night and who volunteers at the local homeless shelter. He seems to appear when she is feeling distressed or unhappy, and gently guides her onto a better path as he listens to her troubles and dispenses wisdom is a sweet and kindly way. It eventually has an effect on her, with Kate slowly coming round and improving her life.

One of the first things that endeared this movie to me is that George Micheal provides the entire soundtrack. I am a child of the 80’s so I grew up with George (and Wham) and it was a hell of a shock when he died very young of a heart attack (on Christmas Day 2016 no less). To hear his voice so strong singing all those wonderful songs simultaneously brought a smile to my face but also an aching feeling in my heart. And as I was to find out later, this fit the movie perfectly. I saw an interview with Emma Thompson a few weeks after seeing this film in which she said that George had been approached to provide the music for the film several years before he passed away and was very enthusiastic about the project. With the support of his family the filmmakers were allowed to continue on using George’s material and, for me at least, the film is richer for it. 

Now it must be said that festive movies can be hard to get right, balancing out the surreal feelings of the season, joy, happiness, goodwill to all people, all that mushy stuff, with that of harsh realities of real life. Many people find that time of the year hard. I know some won’t agree but I thought this one got it right. Some films overdo it one way or the other but I liked how this played out. It had a sense of the whimsical intermixed with drama, some chuckles with real and painful emotion. When Kate has her moment of clarity (and I will not say any more than that) I gasped and had a little weep that verged on an ugly cry. It broke my heart. I am getting a little teary now as I write this which indicates just how effecting it was. If movies can evoke emotional reactions like that then they must be doing something right. 

I think my feelings about this were helped by Henry Golding’s understated but lovely performance. I will be honest and say that I haven’t been too much of a fan of his in the previous two movies he has been in but with Last Christmas he was perfect. In fact, I liked all the cast in their roles. Clarke, Thompson and Yeoh were all great. I have to say I wished we had been treated to a scene with Thompson and Yeoh together (the big finale doesn’t count) in the same frame. Two of the most incredible and talented women of cinema deserved to be centre stage together! Such an opportunity missed!

One funny thing that would be interesting to know is did the movie makers find actual real Christmas decorations with which to stock Michelle Yeoh’s shop or were they made up just for the film? Some of them were so awful that they had to surely be real. The red sparkly christmas gibbon or the rock manger with the smiling donkey and a baby Jesus with a mouth full of teeth anyone!

I will finish by saying that I am really glad I went to see Last Christmas. It’s a great addition to the pantheon of festive movies despite what the grinch’s say. Well worth a look.

And if you don’t shed a tear you have a cold heart indeed!

Rating: 4 stars

Watched: 10 November 2019

(Header Image: Skitterphoto)

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