“Last Christmas, I gave you my heart…”
From director Paul Feig, the brains behind comedy smash Bridesmaids, comes a new festive film that captures the essence of the holidays and steals your heart. It is warming, charming, and as camp as the season itself.
Based on the greatest Christmas song of the same name (yes, I said greatest. You heard), Last Christmas is a Wham!-inspired film featuring a stellar cast of Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson and Michelle Yeoh. While it features the songs of George Michael and Andrew Ridgley, it is refreshingly not a jukebox musical. It does feel like a film in its own right rather than a script that has been moulded around an artist’s discography. Looking at you, Mamma Mia.
Emilia Clarke plays the oh-so-relatable Kate, a struggling 30-something aspiring singer. She works in a Christmas shop that is open all. year. round. to support her dream of super-stardom. The opening scene tells us that she has the voice of an angel – if only someone would give her that big break. Kate stumbles through life from one disaster to the next, with the odd audition in between.
This is a film about chance, and the idea that life is what you make it. Relationships in Last Christmas exist through sheer luck. Spotting Tom staring into the sky outside of the shop, Kate shares her impressions of him as “weird” and “serial killer-y”. Despite this less than favourable description, Tom is determined to win Kate over. He encourages her to take time and “look up”, as she realises there’s so much more to see when you open your mind. The film is beautifully shot; wintery London backdrops and twinkly lights the perfect backdrop for such a delightful movie.
Walking in a winter London-land…
Although, the film slightly loses its way towards the second half as it becomes a cat and mouse tale of Kate trying to pin down the mysterious Tom. The stranger, who handily ticks all three boxes of tall, dark and handsome, is also frustratingly aloof. If this were a fairy-tale, the trail of breadcrumbs would have dried up almost immediately. Without a surname or a phone number to go on, Kate is having no luck finding Tom and her pining for someone so clearly uninterested quickly wears thin. In fact is, the very existence of their relationship depends on them being in the right place at the right time. As the film reaches its emotional peak, we see that Tom’s dismissal of Kate is symbolic of her own self-loathing. We uncover the reason for Tom’s frequent disappearances and the film grabs firmly onto the heartstrings, refusing to let go.
I’m not going to heal my heart and then give it to someone who will break it
What made the film so hard-hitting, for me, is Kate’s desperation to just feel something. She confides in Tom about how her heart transplant has left her feeling without a soul, as if her hopes and dreams have been ripped from her and replaced with the spirit of an unknown. She works her way through friends’ sofas in a whirlwind of self-sabotage, a series of drunken one-night stands adding notches on her bedpost (or lack thereof). Returning home to her fractured parents was a painful prospect but the best decision Kate could have made.
Love yourself, and the rest will follow
Last Christmas is ultimately about self-acceptance, which is such an important reminder at this time of year. When Kate stumbles onto the scene with her battered, Wham!-stickered suitcase, she felt a disconnect from herself, her heart and soul, her Slavic name. After a lot of lessons learnt, Kate began to be truly happy and invested in herself. Gone were the late-night kebabs and solo jaunts to dive bars. On the menu now are kale smoothies and strolls through the market with her attentive mother (Emma Thompson).
Last Christmas undeniably had some cringey scenes, but the warmth of the film cannot be overlooked. The exploration of homelessness and politics is raw and meaningful, but all wrapped up with a shiny red bow.
Don’t believe the stuffy critics. Sprinkled with songs from the dulcet-toned George Michael, Last Christmas is the perfect tonic for the cold season. This sugary sweet offering may not be appreciated now, but this is a film destined to follow the path of Love, Actually and become a much-loved festive classic.