VOD film review: Last Christmas
Ivan Radford | On 16, Mar 2020
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson
Watch Last Christmas online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
“Last Christmas I gave you my heart, but the very next day you gave it away…” Those are the instantly familiar words of George Michael’s iconic Christmas song – and, in one of the world’s most unlikely events (yes, we’re writing this in 2020) they’re also the foundation for what wants to be an equally iconic Christmas film. While there’s some entertaining in watching such an absurdly overstretched idea unfold, the very next day, you’ll forget all about it.
The film follows Kate (Emilia Clarke), a 20-something mess of a human being who is trying to find her way through life in London just before Christmas. We can tell all this because she wears a lot of smudged eye shadow, often sports a leopard print coat, annoys and alienates all of her friends – all the while being dressed as an elf. Why an elf, you say? Because she has a job in a Covent Garden Christmas shop, which is operated by a formidable festive fanatic (Michelle Yeoh).
Into her chaotic existence strolls Tom (Henry Golding) and the pair strike up a burgeoning relationship, which mostly involves them walking through London’s snowy, picture-perfect wintry streets. He gradually disarms the barriers she’s thrown up, and she begins to reexamine her life, a journey that includes her helping out a homelessness shelter, embracing her love of singing and, well, dressing up as an elf.
All of this could be endearing, if there were any substance to either character, but Emma Thompson and Bryony Kimmings’ script fails to make them believable or likeable people. Kate is a bundle of cliches stitched together by quirky mannerisms, while Tom is mysterious to the point of abstraction. The supporting ensemble don’t get much of a chance to help, with Kate’s mother (Thompson) a broadly accented stereotype and the wonderful Michelle Yeoh shortchanged of more screentime. While Clarke brings a sweary, brash charm to proceedings, she can’t elevate material that’s wafer-thin, and the always-brilliant Henry Golding is disappointingly wasted in a blank, distant role.
All of this is wrapped up in a narrative that feels like the worst Christmas dinner imaginable – simultaneously overcooked and underbaked. The screenplay attempts to comment on Brexit and the country’s rough sleeping crisis, but the lip service to complex issues only serves as a distraction. Paul Feig’s direction is as gloriously chocolate-boxy as you could want a London-based Christmas rom-com to be, but all the fairy lights in the world can’t disguise a third act that’s visible a mile off and still remains implausible. On the plus side, it’s an excuse to listen a whole host of George Michael songs, but unlike Rocketman and Blinded by the Light, there’s no sense of the stellar jukebox soundtrack being connected or relevant to the people on screen. Sometimes, you gotta have faith – but when it comes to Last Christmas, save yourself from tears and just go straight to the album.
Last Christmas is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.