As the Summer blockbusters slowly start winding down in Hollywood, we move into the next big cycle — the holidays. This time of year traditionally brings out movies that play up the basic goodness in humans and over the years, we have seen some really powerful stories as well as heartwarming romances. Last Christmas is the latest entrant to this list, and while not particularly powerful, the film still offers a genuine warmth that has been missing for some time from the big screen.
Kate Andrich (Emilia Clarke) is a young adult who is recovering from a disease. She doesn’t stay with her parents, is not welcome at her friends’ places, and is also not employed gainfully. Her only work? Dressing up as a green elf in a gift store called Yuletide, reporting to a boss called Santa (Michelle Yeoh). During this time, she chances upon a stranger (Henry Golding), who seems to be the right antidote for her recovery. Their romantic adventures and Kate’s recovery form the plot.
While this might seem largely similar to The Fault in our Stars, let me assure you it isn’t. The film, set in London, has the quintessential British humour and is sold in large part by Emilia Clarke and her eyebrows (surely you didn’t expect a review without a mention of them). She is the heart and soul of the film and it is definitely one of her better performances on the screen. Comedies have increasingly dried up in Hollywood and when there are actors like Clarke, gifted with physical humour, I hope more such films and roles are written.
It might be obvious to state it, but for a romance to work, the chemistry between the leads has to work. There is a certain innocence that Golding brings to his character that acts as a good foil to Clarke. Their scenes take place in stunningly well-lit locales (what is a romantic movie without dreamy lights, after all) and to the tune of scintillating, soft music, which only adds to the effect.
However, the film isn’t perfect. The story, written by Emma Thompson, has a lot of pacing issues and pays lip service to a lot of serious issues like mental health and Brexit (again, almost a given in British films nowadays), when it need not have even gone there. Even some romance portions, like the ones with Michelle Yeoh, don’t work. And the diversity in the cast seems to have been included for the sake of it.
But, you can forgive the film because, in its 103-minute runtime, it shows its heart is in the right place. And if you are a fan of Wham!, you just might find a buddy in the director, who seems to have used their song not just for naming his film, but also in every conceivable scene. This is a Disney film in all but name and I think we do require a bit of light cheeriness as the decade winds up.
Movie: Last Christmas
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson