So, the Christmas season is upon us! Retail stores have switched over from ghosts and ghouls to garlands, wreaths, and lights that seem to saturate every square inch of the floor. The busy red and green traffic signals now have a whimsical attraction rather than just being annoying direction lights. Window shoppers are now browsing for the perfect Christmas gift for their loved ones rather than wishing for what to treat themselves next time they break big at the bank. On the entertainment side, Christmas movies are rolling out…
It was just this Saturday that I decided to spend some quality time with my mom and invited her to go watch the film Downton Abbey. Trust me, I’ve never been a huge fan of the BBC series, but you can’t put a price on mother-son bonding time. (Right???) To my surprise, my mom says no and insists on watching ‘Last Christmas’, which stars the Mother of Dragons, Emilia Clarke, and the son of Crazy Rich Asians, Henry Golding.
I’m a sucker for Christmas films, the ones that use the old “falling-in-love” trope so many times that it should get old but doesn’t. I’ll face it, though, even I was hoping for something different when I stepped into the theatre and I’m happy to say that ‘Last Christmas’ does not disappoint.
The film tells the story of Kate (played by Emilia Clarke), a clerk at a Christmas decorations store, who struggles with some inner demons. Her confused life is turned upside down when she runs into a charming and enigmatic man, Tom (Henry Golding) who inspires her to view life through a different lens.
The plot sounds simple, but it is used as a backdrop for so many important issues one wouldn’t expect in your ordinary Hallmark Christmas rom-com. The film – co-written by Emma Thompson who also stars as Kate’s Yugoslavian mother – expertly weaves heavy themes such as homelessness, inclusion, mental health and diversity without turning the entire film into one long, boring political message. Christmas is about love and being there for one another. Last Christmas manages to drive home that point without sounding preachy.
On the acting side, Emilia Clarke does a fantastic job playing the troubled heroine who is psychologically recovering from a medical surgery. You can tell that Emilia infuses her personal experiences into the role (Clarke had struggled with a brain haemorrhage before undergoing major surgery) and she deftly handles the emotional and comedic parts with ease and a genuine warmth.
Henry Golding does an equally fantastic job playing the foil to Emilia’s character. Whereas Kate is the confused, psychologically wrecked woman who is struggling to re-find her purpose in life, Tom is the balanced, well-groomed man with an abnormal sense of level-headedness and joy. He is there whenever Kate needs someone the most and can drop off the grid just as easily – he’s one of those people that don’t use cellphones or social media.
The stellar performances don’t just belong to Emilia and Henry only. Emma Thompson seems to have a blast playing the Yugoslavian mother who still can’t find her way around the English language (including some vulgar slangs that I won’t mention here) and Michele Yeoh does a phenomenal job playing the lovestruck store manager who struggles between trying to support Kate and having to fire her.
All-in-all, the movie is a gem. The ending contains a surprise twist that sets this movie apart from the average Christmas romance; and of course, the soundtrack. I mean, seriously, how can you not watch a movie that’s peppered with some of George Michaels’ greatest hits?
So go see it with your friends and family. I promise you won’t regret it.