Note: at the time of writing, the writer is still drying her tears
Be warned, this film is a lot deeper than the ads make it out to be. Plus, there are spoilers ahead.
It’s been a long time since a romantic comedy centered around Christmas time has hit theaters. Most of those are left to such platforms such as Hallmark or, more recently, Netflix. Having one released to theaters, with some very big-named actors as well, had me intrigued. Plus, I’m a sucker for Christmas movies, rom-coms (just a little), and movies with an awesome soundtrack. This one has the likes of George Michael and Wham!.
The film stars Emilia Clarke, known for her role as Daenerys in HBO’s Game of Thrones, as Kate, a worker at a year-round Christmas store. And Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) as Tom, Kate’s lover throughout the film.
Kate, who recently had heart surgery the previous year, is still trying to get back on her feet and make a life for herself, but has had a recent string of bad luck, which is why Tom seems just too good to be true. While that was the main part of the story, I was surprised to see how many layers this movie actually has, from the troublesome relationship Kate has with her family (especially her mother, played by Emma Thompson), to the buddying friendship she has with her boss at the Christmas store (played by Michelle Yeoh), and getting in back in touch with her heritage. In the film, Kate’s family moved from Yugoslavia when she was younger.
All of these factors were part of Kate’s desire to get better, from bettering her life, her habits, and her relationships, as well as the theme of recovery. Clarke did a wonderful job portraying a woman who is acting like everything is fine, but deep down, is still recovering from trauma.
Golding also did a great job of playing the mysterious Tom, who slowly guided Kate to do the right thing and live her life to the fullest. While this is kind of a stereotypical Christmas movie message, it is handled in a very unique and gradual way, with Kate rebuilding her relationships and reevaluating her goals in life. Instead of getting big roles in musicals, something that was her dream for so long, she raises money and puts on a show at the homeless shelter.
While the soundtrack, and even the title itself gave the movie away, the shocking twist at the end was still a lot to handle. It turns out that Tom was a ghost, which explains why you never see him talk to anyone else, or even change his clothes. When he had an accident of his own, he gave his heart to Kate the year prior when she needed her heart transplant. And cue the tears.
What I loved most about Last Christmas is the realistic relationships it portrayed. Kate with her family and her boss, as well as the awkwardness in love to having to say goodbye to Tom. I also loved Kate’s transformation, from her darker dress to more lighter colors, symbolizing her growth and new outlook on life. It also addressed real-world issues, like Brexit and homelessness.
The film is set around Christmas time, but strangely enough it didn’t seem like a Christmas movie. Yes, there was the feel-good aspect of the genre, but I didn’t walk away feeling that warm, festive feeling. I instead felt like it was a feel-good movie, because you got see growth in a person and them make a better life for themselves. If you removed the Christmas aspect, the only thing that would be awkward is the year-round Christmas store. Other than that, it seemed like a rom-com. A very unconventional one at that, since Kate doesn’t end up with Tom at the end.
One of the few complaints I have is the many layers to the story. It was hard at times to keep track of the various subplots in the movie, and where they were going to go. While it all tied up nicely at the end, it was oftentimes distracting from Kate and Tom’s story.
Overall, I’d give it a 7/10 or maybe a 7.5, just to get into that holiday spirit. I encourage anyone who needs a little holiday cheer to give this film a chance, because I assure you, while it does take conventional rom-com tropes, it’s a very fresh take on the genre. It’s a look at family, and knowing it’s okay not to be okay, and getting back up on your feet. Plus, George Michael.