When we first meet young Katarina in Former Yugoslavia, she is singing like an angel and bringing a tear to her doting mother’s eye. Jump forward to 2017 UK and adult Kate (Emilia Clarke) is anything but angelic. She’s being incredibly self-destructive, avoiding her neurotic mother, quiet father and bitter sister and taking advantage of the kindness and hospitality of her friends who take turns kicking her out for being such an awful house guest.
Kate spends her days working in an all-year Christmas shop for ‘Santa’ (Michelle Yeoh) though she is decidedly lacking in Christmas cheer and her boss has had enough. We learn that Kate has been ill and is avoiding doctor appointments as well as her family – that is, until the mysterious Tom (Henry Golding) arrives and a little hope starts to emerge from Kate as the two get to know each other and romance blossoms.
Though there is some humour and silliness in the film, Last Christmas is a surprisingly moving delight. There are some moments where the real emotional weight is felt, especially as Kate learns the importance of helping others and appreciating what she already has in her life. The tone doesn’t always flow brilliantly but when it does hit the mark, it really works.
The film also does a remarkably good job of capturing the magic of Christmas in London (albeit without all the crowds). It takes liberties with geography (you cannot leave Ally Pally and enter central London, come on!) but it shows the bright lights of Oxford Street and the more typical London streets in Brixton and beyond, and does so really well.
With such a strong cast, Paul Feig directing and Emma Thompson working on the story and script, there were perhaps high hopes for this becoming a new Christmas classic. Sadly, it doesn’t quite live up to that promise as there are some odd plot choices that won’t work for some and there are moments when it veers a little too close into preachy territory. That said, there’s a lot to love here and perhaps we could all use that reminder that happiness can be found in the simple act of helping others.
Though it has some issues, Last Christmas is so full of charm and goodness that you forgive it all the cheese and unsurprising plot. Clarke is glorious, as is Thompson, and the addition of George Michael’s music brings so much magic with it (stay through the credits to hear a previously unreleased track).
Last Christmas is on general release from Friday 15th of November