Last Christmas (2019)

Last Christmas poster.jpegDirector: Paul Feig
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Rating: 12a
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson, Rebecca Root, Boris Isakovic, Lydia Leonard, Patti LuPone, Ingrid Oliver, Laura Evelyn, Peter Mygind, Rob Delaney, Peter Serafinowicz, Sue Perkins

After making a self-aware thriller with A Simple Favour, director Paul Feig returns to lighter fare with a tale about human kindness, which is wrapped in a festive bow. The story follows Kate (Emilia Clarke), working as an elf all-year round in a Christmas shop which sells unique ornaments. She aspires to be a singer, but keeps being unsuccessful with auditions, and struggles to reconnect with her family. She feels so disillusioned with life, until she meets handsome stranger Tom (Henry Golding), who offers her a new look on life.

Based on a story by Greg Wise and Emma Thompson, the latter who wrote the script with Bryony Kimmings, this is a film which has the best of intentions. Its heart may be in the right place, but there seems to be an interest in how many sentimental elements can be piled on, rather than making what's already there work on their own. Take a subplot which addresses Brexit, and the effects it has on British citizens who've originally come from another country. In theory, it's a timely element which fits in this narrative, but its inclusion feels so forced and unnecessary, and ends up not working as it should.

As the story goes on, it becomes more and more clear where it's heading. No spoilers here, but you'd be hard pressed to not see where it's going, considering what's been among the biggest pop-culture talking points of the past few decades. From the moment it's first hinted at, this aspect overshadows the film, until it all reveals itself.

A key part of the marketing is how the film would feature the music of late singer, George Michael. It's understandable to think of this as a calculated decision, considering the success of films each involving the music of Elton John, Queen, and Abba (twice, in the last instance). But after George Michael's tragic passing, the first bits of news which came out were of the singers generosity, how he'd quietly given millions to charities over many years, and donated to individuals in great need. In that regards, his music fits rather well into a film about the importance of being kind to others. This makes it all the more unfortunate, as his music doesn't feel integral to the picture. Outside of the obvious use of Wham!'s Last Christmas, the rest of the musical choices' could have been substituted for the back-catalogue of any other artist.

Praise is deserving for the wonderful cast, who give utterly charming performances which sell their relationships and nice little dynamics. Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding do great work with their roles, selling the paths their characters have been taken down, and where the story takes them. Their utter charm makes the most cringe-worthy of lines go down more easily, and sells their blossoming relationship more than the script does. A shame that Emma Thompson is stuck performing a cartoonish accent. Thankfully though, this is a film which doesn't outstay its welcome, but it's one I struggled to recall the day after.