Review: Last Christmas

In Wham!’s 1986 song “Last Christmas” – an iconic song that helped make George Michael a star – the lyrics say, “I keep my distance/But you still catch my eye.” Those lyrics are fun to sing at karaoke and also a great description of Kate and Tom’s relationship in the appropriately titled, Last Christmas.

Last Christmas is the story of Kate (Emilia Clarke), a young woman living in London. She had dreams of being a singer but her life has been incredibly unlucky. Her days are filled with work, eating bad food, crashing at various friends’ homes, meeting guys on the dating app “Swiper”, and going to auditions.

One day, while working at a Christmas shop, she meets Tom (Henry Golding), a charming bike delivery boy. Kate’s time with Tom starts to provide her with a different perspective on life. The more time they spend together, the more Kate starts making healthier life decisions and the more questions she has about who Tom is.

There are moments when Last Christmas is a rom-com packaged as a Christmas movie. There are other moments when the story feels like a Christmas movie packaged as a rom-com. Kate and Tom’s meet-cute is a 10 out of 10 on the rom com scale – instant attraction, light flirting, and Kate doesn’t immediately fall for the tall handsome man. However, Kate’s drama with her family, job/musical pursuits, and life changes could be infused into any Christmas movie.

What makes this slightly predictable and incredibly cheesy rom-com work are its two stars – Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding. They have a good chemistry that makes their flirtatious banter feel natural and their relationship more honest and accessible. Despite Kate being a mess and Tom being mysterious, it’s believable that these two could meet and go for a walk down a London street. Sometimes believably is all you need to sell a campy love story.

The best part of their relationship is the type of intimacy they have – putting ornaments on a tree or Tom taking Kate to his favorite park. The best is a beautiful scene where Kate tells Tom about her life. It’s such an intimate scene because you can tell Kate struggles with talking about aspects of her life and there’s something about Tom that makes her comfortable enough to share.

Emma Thompson co-wrote the script, plays Kate’s mother (Petra), and steals at least 6 scenes. Thompson is the funniest part of the film and is given some of the best one-liners. Michelle Yeoh also delivers some good humor as Santa, Kate’s boss.

The soundtrack for Last Christmas is all George Michael songs. The soundtrack includes the hits “Faith”, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, “Fantasy”, and others. The song that sets the backdrop for the film is Michael’s 1991 hit, “Heal the Pain” – Kate sings the song multiple times throughout the film. The song seems to be just another George Michael song at first but the emotional lyrics become more poignant as the film moves along.

If watching two beautiful people fall in love makes you smile, Last Christmas is for you. The film is designed to make audiences smile and feel warm and fuzzy inside.  It’s a romantic comedy that also doubles as a Christmas movie the way Die Hard is an action movie that doubles as a Christmas movie. The two leads and are what make this film fun. Clarke and Golding nail the heartwarming moments that are meant to make you want to hold somebody’s hand. This is the season for charming feel-good love stories and Last Christmas hits all the marks.

Grade: B