A Christmas movie with Daenerys Targaryen from “Game of Thrones,” Nick Young from “Crazy Rich Asians,” and a soundtrack primarily comprised of George Michael sounds almost too good to be true—and it was. “Last Christmas” stars a fantastic cast with actors Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson and Michelle Yeoh. Unfortunately, even their incredible acting couldn’t mask the film’s poor attempt to incorporate the entire kitchen sink of political and social issues in its plot.
The film’s premise is based on the song “Last Christmas,” which Thompson personally received permission from Michael to use. Clarke plays Kate, whose family immigrated to the UK from Yugoslavia to escape the war in the 90s. Kate is now a struggling, couch-surfing singer who works in a year-round Christmas shop. It’s here that she meets Golding’s character, Tom, who serves as an endearing foil to her never-ending pessimism.
The film’s cliche plot line was surprisingly not entirely unbearable. It turns out that Clarke isn’t only the queen of dragons—she’s also the queen of comedic timing and witty one-liners. The mother-daughter relationship between Kate and Petra, played by Thompson, is as dynamic as it is relatable.
Petra excessively worries over Kate who barely visits or talks to her family. When Kate comes home after having nowhere else to stay for the night, Petra quite terribly sings her to sleep with an old Yugoslavian folk song. At a doctor visit, Kate attempts to give the illusion that she’s maintaining her health perfectly well while Petra dismisses each lie and reveals her daughter’s poor habits.
However, as entertaining as their banter is, it’s moments like this that emphasize how limited the actors are with such an unfortunate script. The way that Kate is written makes her incredibly unlikeable, but Clarke does a fantastic job at bringing humor to her role.
Kate’s series of unfortunate events is meant to contribute to her clumsy, quirky personality, but accidentally electrocuting a pet or having a one-night-stand in someone else’s nursery definitely isn’t the way to go about making a character relatable or likeable.
Kate has an entire support group of friends and family that she neglects. It’s only when Tom brings her to a homeless shelter that she realizes how fortunate her circumstances are when compared with those who don’t have the luxury of a family to fall back on.
Speaking of the script, an overwhelming amount of social issues are jammed so far down the audience’s throat that the actual storyline feels unfinished. Issues about immigration, cultural acceptance, mental health, sexual orientation, marital, family disputes and even Brexit litter the plot. This isn’t to say it’s unrealistic for people to be dealing with many, if not all of these issues. However, in the film they just don’t have any significant impact at all.
These issues are introduced but never resolved. It’s mentioned that Petra has been prescribed nearly every type of medication to help treat her anxiety and depression, but the film simply glosses over this fact and never mentions it again. In fact, it somewhat makes light of the situation when it’s brought up in the doctor’s office. Kate’s father, a taxi driver, would rather spend his nights driving aimlessly around the streets than staying home with Petra.Yet without any meaningful conversation between the two, they suddenly become happy and content with each other to comply with the movie’s obligatory happy ending.
Messy storyline aside, there are simply too many themes and rushed character arcs to keep up with, which prevents the film from being as enjoyable as it could be.
“Last Christmas” has an unbelievably talented cast with some redeemable aspects. The idea of basing a film off Michael’s Christmas song is creative and intriguing.The chemistry between Clarke and Golding is obvious through the screen. The amount of diversity in the cast beyond just race is pleasantly surprising. It’s just a shame that the plot is riddled with unnecessary tangents and side stories that are never properly addressed.