Last Christmas, with it addressing the immigrant experience, having a romance which grows on you, and George Michael music? Oh, prep to enjoy yourself.
|Screenplay By||Emma Thompson, Bryony Kimmings|
|Date Released (Theatrical)||11/8/2019|
|Genre(s)||Holiday, Romance, Comedy|
|Good If You Like||
|Katarina (Kate)||Emilia Clarke|
|Kate and Marta’s Dad||Boris Isaković|
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Plot Summary/ Review
After immigrating from Yugoslavia to England, Katarina’s (Kate) family hasn’t been the same. Her father, a lawyer in Yugoslavia, now drives a taxi. As for her mother? Well, at one time she was a singer, but the PTSD from the Yugoslav has left her with a slew of issues that makes it so she primarily focuses on the household and her children. Also, her husband, when he is around.
But, the film isn’t so much about them as it is Kate. She wants to become a singer, but it is just difficult for her to do so. In Yugoslavia, she sang in choir and was quite good. However, in England? It seems she didn’t keep up with it for whether it was learning English, adjusting to a new country, or her studies, boys as well, there were distractions.
However, at 26, and after a major surgery 9 months ago, she wants to really give it a shot. Making Tom coming into her life, a guy who may be around for more than a shag and perhaps some breakfast, a complication to her plan. Even if he becomes a part of her.
While the fantasy, sci-fi, and action genre has been Clarke’s bread and butter, from Star Wars to Terminator Genisys, like Game of Thrones, those are franchises that didn’t necessarily need what she uniquely brings as an actress. However, for those familiar with Me Before You, I’d say the way Clarke plays Kate will remind you of the power her smile has, this brimming optimism she conveys, and she takes it a step further. How? Well, by tapping into her dark side.
Mind you, this dark side is of a human person, so no comparisons to Daenerys are accurate. More so, it is the dark side of struggling and coming to the point of settling or giving up. Clarke presents this in such a human way, yet her spirit pushes you, even as she drinks, sleeps with random people, and complains, to want more for her.
It’s almost like, no matter how bad things get, a feign smile, this sense she hasn’t entirely given up, it gives you hope. Leading you to wonder, as you watch, how far could she have pushed beyond her form of rock bottom and still maintain your loyalty? Something we see her test with upsetting her friends.
Henry Golding Made A Decent Love Interest
I’m not sold on the idea of Golding as a leading man. At least outside of the realm of him being someone’s husband, boyfriend, or a love interest. For there is something about his charisma which seems so built on this specific brand of charm, I can’t imagine him as nothing else. But, with that said, him playing off Clarke is a wonderful match.
But, giving credit where credit is due, I must admit the push to be more optimistic is what Golding brings. The way his character appears nearly carefree, and guides Kate to having a more fulfilling life, it makes him an asset. The kind I wouldn’t necessarily say couldn’t be played by someone else, but I also can’t imagine someone else, offhand, playing against Clarke and creating a need to invest as deeply as you might.
The Immigrant Experience
When it comes to the family being from Yugoslavia, it isn’t included solely to add a dash of flavor. Instead, it presents a take on the immigrant experience ranging from big things to little things. Be it why Kate doesn’t go by Katarina, for maybe she doesn’t want to be othered. Also, we experience a sense of English nationalism due to Brexit. Not to forget, a reminder of why people immigrate, and the sacrifices involved in that.
Perhaps one of the most prominent examples is Kate’s father going from a lawyer to a cab driver and being unable to train in English law because of cost. The portrayal of starting over, especially while dealing with immense trauma, might be understated, or masked with jokes a bit, but is very real.
Though, in a lighter way, there is also “Santa,” Kate’s boss at a Christmas store, who changed her name based on where she was working. All so people wouldn’t butcher her real name or make things overly complicated. And with us seeing that done for “Santa,” who is Asian, as well as a man she likes, and Kate doing that as well, we’re shown how universal of a thing that is.
You’ll Grow An Appreciation For George Michael’s Music
Previous to this film, I knew “Careless Whisper,” “Faith” and that song with the go-go line. After this film? I realized I have been sleeping on George Michael and need to stream a greatest hits compilation. For with Kate’s favorite singer being George Michael, this film is pretty much one George Michael song after another, and quite a few are toe-tappers.
You Are Going To Cry
All I’m going to say is, like damn near any romance movie, there comes the point where something is said or revealed, and you get frustrated. However, with this film, as the shock is processed, the potential for tears is there.
It’s Diverse Without Feeling Forced
Between Santa and Kate’s friends, Tom as well, you get a sense this film isn’t working on some token system. Last Christmas doesn’t have an Asian male lead just to get into the Chinese market, and Kate doesn’t have a bunch of non-white friends just because. Instead, it feels natural for she is in a major city, she’s an immigrant and is in the arts. The idea of her not having a diverse group of friends, works with, or hooks up with, would be eyebrow-raising if it was otherwise.
On The Fence
If You Don’t Like Things Getting Political In Your Holiday Movies, This May Not Be For You
Between Kate’s sister, Marta, being queer, and the conversations which led to Brexit, there is a political element to this film. There is also Adelia talking about the Yugoslav war and an offhand comment blaming the Polish for it. So while none of these topics dominate the film, you may feel their inclusion, and the conversations around them, are a bit too much of a reality check if you are seeking escapism.
It Does Have That, Not Taking No For An Answer Issue
Depending on how you are, you may find Tom being persistent, even popping up in a sort of stalker-ish way a turn-off. It all depends how you take a man showing interest or taking the initiative. Especially since Kate calls him weird, multiple times, and there is this push for her to eventually find his weird to go from uncomfortable to charming.
Last Christmas Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing) – Recommended
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get butterflies, and even some depth. It’s not necessarily common for Christmas movies, but it is appreciated. If only to have that reminder that as much as holiday movies are about escapism, that doesn’t mean they have to be bland and cheerful. They can present challenges and hardships. After all, things like that are what make the holidays special. It’s the one time of the year people get time off, can see family, and recuperate with one another. You know, fortify the mind and heart in preparation for a better year. Thus the positive label and recommendation. Last Christmas works as a holiday movie, a romance film, it has just enough drama to avoid feeling boring, and enough laughs to offset how real the film sometimes gets.