An Honest Review Of 'Last Christmas'

Seasons greetings! It is I, Betches’ resident holiday romance movie enthusiast, back to regale you with the films that you should absolutely be wasting your time with during this hallowed time of year. Hint: it’s all of them. Even the bad ones. In fact, especially the bad ones.

As previously established, I am a slut for Christmas and all that comes with it—including, but not limited to, those absolutely cringeworthy movies that Hallmark, and now Netflix, peddle like it’s the end of the month and rent is due tomorrow. Painstakingly reviewing each one is a tough job, and if we’re being honest, no one really had to do it, but I decided to anyway because this is my passion. Follow me on this evergreen scented journey or perish, (Christmas) sweater monkeys.

Me, the second plates are cleared at Thanksgiving:

I’ve kicked off this holiday season—and yes, I consider the 11th of November the holiday season—with as legitimate a Christmas movie as we’ll ever cover in this series, Last Christmas. Starring Emilia Clarke (Daenerys from Game of Thrones) and Henry Golding (Nick from Crazy Rich Asians), Last Christmas is the story of one wildly self-centered woman and her journey to self-actualization during the Christmas season, accompanied by a heavily George Michael-influenced soundtrack, alluded to by the title itself. I can’t think of a better time to work on myself than during the six weeks a year I’m stuffing my face with every edible peppermint or spiced item in sight, but maybe that’s why I don’t get to be the quirky lead of a holiday rom-com.

Kate (Clarke) is, for lack of a better term, a 26-year-old hot f*cking mess who works full-time in a seasonal Christmas store, dressed daily as an elf. It would appear that just about every person in her life resents her for being a selfish, careless, generally destructive human, except her Yugoslavian mother, played to near perfection by a very not-Yugoslavian Emma Thompson.

Just as she’s about to truly hit rock bottom, Kate meets Tom (Golding), who is immediately infatuated with her cracked out smokey eyes and over all chaotic lifestyle. No man has ever looked at my residual hair and makeup after a particularly violent holiday party and been like “wow, I am beguiled by this adult woman in an elf costume” but, alas, I am not the mother of dragons. The most unrealistic part in a movie that will at one point become outrageously unrealistic is that Kate pretends for even one second to not be into Henry Golding, who I could have watched prance throughout London during Christmas time for another 4-6 hours.

What follows are two reviews: one that is spoiler free for those of you that have yet to see the movie, and one that is absolutely riddled with spoilers because I have no one else to talk to about the emotional havoc that this supposedly holiday-friendly film wreaked on me at 9:30pm on a Sunday night in an empty movie theatre in a foreign country. It’s fine. I’m fine.

A Spoiler-Free Review

In terms of holiday tropes, this movie has it all: family strife, an inordinate amount of decorations, an astoundingly selfish person who—through the guidance of another—learns to care about something outside themselves, some sort of tragedy that begets new beginnings, vague political undertones, a romantic subplot that exists purely for comedic purposes, and then a main romantic plot that ultimately teaches you an important less about both yourself and the spirit of the season.

As any true rom-com fan knows, the one thing needed to land chemistry between two people is The Look, and this movie has it. Specifically, Henry Golding has it. I could watch that man Look at a piece of plywood. Cast him in more romantic leads, you cowards.

Having only ever watched Emilia Clarke play an incredibly stoic, and towards the end tyrannical and unhinged, role on Game of Thrones, it was refreshing to watch her foray into comedy. She so believably plays a narcissistic pseudo-adult that I found myself both genuinely identifying with and disliking her at different points throughout the movie. I’ll unpack that later, I guess.

Emma Thompson as the domineering, overbearing mother (but honestly never as overbearing or domineering as her entire family makes her out to be) steals the show, and manages to inject some anti-Brexit sentiment without derailing the actual plot. Her performance is just followed by Santa, Kate’s hard-ass boss with a heart of gold, delightfully played by Michelle Yeoh, also of Crazy Rich Asians.

Last Christmas manages to be both cheesy and charming, with truly enjoyable character dynamics across multiple plot points. From Kate and her boss, to Kate and her mother, and even Kate and her sister, there’s a begrudging but ultimately loving female relationship that everyone can relate to in one way or another.

Is it worth adding Last Christmas to your holiday movie rotation? Absolutely. At the very least, it gives you an excuse to listen to an abundance of George Michael, which is something we should all be doing more often.

Thus ends the spoiler-free portion of this review. Please leave if you don’t want to be upset from here on out.

A Review Absolutely Riddled With Spoilers

Okay. OKAY.

We learn throughout the course of the movie that the reason Kate is failing at every aspect of adult life is because just a year ago, she nearly died, only to be saved by a Hail Mary heart transplant. Now that Kate is well again, her mother is floundering, her sister is drowning in resentment at having been cast aside for what appears to be her entire life, her dad is distant and detached from all family matters, and Kate herself is lost. Her prior dreams of becoming a singer are thwarted left and right by what seems like bad luck, but is actually the result of Kate being unable to commit to any one event in her life. And to be fair, I get it; a mid-twenties existential crisis is rough enough without having to come face to face with your own mortality.

In short, Kate is doing not well, bitch. But the more time she spends with Tom, the more she appears to heal. He teaches her novel things like caring about the people around you and putting a single ounce of effort into the things that you want to achieve. Groundbreaking concept. This culminates in an alcohol-fueled confession to him of all her secret fears and inadequacies, spurred by a family dinner in which she outs her sister in a fit of rage. You know, like siblings do. It’s at this point that Tom, an ardent supporter of all things Kate up until now, appears to exhibit the first seeds of doubt, all communicated in one troubled glance at the drunk, bedraggled, eyeliner-smudged, cheetah coat-cloaked mess in his arms. Forget Disney princesses, this is the most unrealistic expectation media has ever set for me women.

Tom disappears for a while, but shockingly, Kate’s personal development continues to progress. She’s begun frequenting the homeless shelter that Tom volunteers at, has re-dedicated herself to a job and relationship with her boss that she nearly lost early on in the movie, and begins to mend the damage between her mother and herself. TL;DR: Kate is growing up and the people around her are starting to take notice. This is artfully demonstrated to the audience by the gradual lessening of her black eyeshadow and increase of apparent hair brushing—subtle cues that you only pick up on when you’ve been someone who at one point in their life needed to brush their hair or reduce their eyeshadow.

And then. AND THEN. Tragedy strikes.

After an extended period of absence, Kate heads to Tom’s place where she finds a realtor who is in the process of showing his apartment. Over the course of one anxiety-filled conversation, we learn that Tom has not skipped town as one might have initially thought. Oh no, Tom can’t skip town. Why? because Tom is a ghost.

And do you want to know why Tom is a ghost? Do you? BECAUSE LAST CHRISTMAS HE GAVE HER HIS F*CKING HEART.

The moment that I, far too late, realized that the lyrics “Last Christmas I gave you my heart” were, in fact, LITERAL, was the second most traumatic event I’ve ever experienced in a movie theatre, the first being the time a man convinced me to go see Sausage Party with him. I’m still not ready to discuss the latter, but you bet your ass we’re going to dive into the former.

Me, to the perplexed Dutch man sat next to me in the movie theatre:

Should I have noticed that Henry Golding was wearing the same outfit the entire time? Maybe. Should I have picked up on the fact that literally no one else ever saw him? Sure. Should I have been prepared for a Sixth Sense style twist in what I was falsely assured was a feel good Christmas rom-com? Absolutely not.

I have no less than one hundred questions about the feasibility of this plot, which I understand is the kind of thing I should just be accepting at face value, given the genre I’ve chosen to dedicate myself to here, but I refuse.

How long was Tom haunting Kate before they met? The man died a year ago—was he just lurking in the distance until she was truly on the brink of destroying her entire life? How did she get into his apartment? Was he carrying a ghost key? Was his bike also a ghost, or was there just an empty courier bike peddling alongside this woman day after day, who was actually just speaking to thin air? On that note, considering Kate’s typical physical state and tendency to hang out outside a homeless shelter and speak to someone no one else could see, how was she not approached by the authorities or committed? Why was no one concerned when she was kissing a ghost on a bench in a garden full of regulars who definitely recognized her? Have you ever tried to mime kissing someone? It’s not something that you can do discreetly!

All that being said, I loved this movie. After I sopped up my tears with my sweater and discreetly skulked out of the movie theatre with a blotchy face, I thought about it the rest of the night. I would watch it again, tomorrow, with a cup of peppermint hot chocolate and a box of tissues. If you’re a fan of love, Christmas, and utter despair, I highly recommend you do the same.

Last Christmas manages to be both cheesy and charming, with truly enjoyable character dynamics across multiple plot points. From Kate and her boss, to Kate and her mother, and even Kate and her sister, there’s a begrudging but ultimately loving female relationship that everyone can relate to in one way or another.

You, dancing away to see this movie:

Images: Giphy (4)

Mary Kate Fotch
Mary Kate Fotch
Mary Kate recently moved to Amsterdam, where she spends a good chunk of her time trying to not die on a bike. She was forced to develop a sense of humor at an early age for many reasons, not the least of which being that she grew up with the name Mary Kate during the Olsen twin era. Follow her on Instagram if you're interested almost exclusively in Huji edits or stories about her overweight cat.