Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Last Christmas is overwhelmingly ridiculous. Except it’s also weirdly enjoyable. When I watched the trailer, I was so excited. A Christmas romantic comedy? Written by Emma Thompson? A George Michael soundtrack? Sign me up.
Last Christmas tells the story of Kate (Emilia Clarke), a comically selfish woman who spends the majority of the film walking around Covent Garden in either a leopard print coat or dressed as an elf (I promise I’m not making this up). Kate works in a Christmas themed shop in Covent Garden (despite wanting to become an actress, and having absolutely no luck), employed by the appropriately named ‘Santa’ (still not making this up). Kate is self-involved, selfish, proud and narcissistic. She is so unpleasant for the first half of the film that I didn’t quite know if she was going to be able to redeem herself. But after meeting Tom, a man who is altogether too good to be true, Kate slowly becomes less self-centred. Henry Golding’s Tom is unrealistically perfect. He enters the film dancing down the street, leading Kate on a walk around London, telling her to “look up” and see the things that everyone takes for granted (at this point in the film, I was seriously considering the idea that Tom was going to kill Kate, especially when he began to lead her down the smallest alley in London).
Emma Thompson (who co-wrote the film along with Bryony Kimmings) plays Kate’s mother, a Yugoslavian immigrant who Kate constantly deems overprotective. As the film continues, however, I found myself thinking that this label was pretty unfair. Kate’s mother, despite being slightly unconventional, was being a normal parent and didn’t really deserve this harsh criticism from her self-involved daughter who never returns her calls.
The twist though? Tom died last Christmas. Kate, who had a heart transplant the year before, was given Tom’s heart and has been imagining the meetings between the two of them (for the last time, I am not making this up, this is actually the story). All of a sudden, the film’s title becomes all too literal.
My first disappointment was that, despite its title promising Mamma Mia! levels of Wham! hits, I can only remember a handful of times where a Wham! song was played. I was hoping to be inundated with George Michael, not be subjected to the same clip of “Last Christmas” thirty times. If I’m completely honest, I forgot that the film was supposed to feature a George Michael soundtrack until the very end when Emilia Clarke’s Kate starts singing “Last Christmas.” All in all, I wanted far, far more George.
Despite the fact that Last Christmas is advertised as a romantic comedy, it was the scenes between Emilia Clarke’s Kate and Henry Golding’s Tom that I found the least enjoyable. I didn’t feel that they had a lot of chemistry and the dialogue in those scenes was eye-rollingly cliché. Put simply, I wanted more romance. The main pitfall of this film, I think, is that it took itself too seriously. Instead of giving into the cliché love story, it tried to brand itself as something different, something deeper and more thought-provoking. The result? A mismatch of storylines, none of which were given the appropriate amount of screen time. I was left unsure what I was meant to have focussed on: the love story between Kate and Tom? The effect of Brexit on Kate’s Yugoslavian parents? Kate’s sister, who lives with her girlfriend without her parents knowing? I’m still not quite sure.
The thing about Last Christmas is that, for all of its ridiculousness, I didn’t hate it. When I went to see it, I was expecting a Richard Curtis-esque festive romance, complete with Hugh Grant dancing through No 10. And although Last Christmas didn’t give me that, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that it was that lack of simplistic festivity that I enjoyed. Christmas isn’t always straight forward and Last Christmas certainly showed that. It was never meant to be a masterpiece, but a piece of escapism which will make you laugh and cry along with its protagonists. I left the cinema feeling festive and happy. So maybe Last Christmas achieved exactly what it set out to do.
I would give Last Christmas 3 stars out of 5. For me, it didn’t have the same timeless edge that films such as Love Actually or Nativity! have, but equally, it wasn’t a total flop. I would watch it again, but it wouldn’t be the first Christmas film I’d reach for.
– Ruby Jackson