Christmas films are a complicated thing. There are so many classics but, let’s be honest, they’ve sort of ground to a halt in recent years. Christmas films just aren’t as good these days. Seriously, I think that last one time a festive movie really spoke to audiences was Elf and that was way back in 2003. I can’t even remember a Christmas film that’s come out since. Okay, there are the terrible Netflix films that I love so much but they’re hardly good. Something being so bad it’s impossible not to watch isn’t the same thing. So, I guess the world is waiting for something great. On paper, that film could easily have been Last Christmas. Co-written by Emma Thompson? Check. Directed by Paul Feig? Check. Starring Emilia Clarke? Check. Soundtrack celebrating George Michael? Check. What is not to love there? So, could Last Christmas really fail? I had to find out.
Let it be known that I love Emma Thompson. I adore her. I want to be her. I’d watch anything she was involved in so I could feel like I was supporting her. Last Christmas is her latest film and one she co-wrote with Bryony Kimmings. It is based on The Wham song of the same name and stars Emilia Clarke as Kate, a young woman who is ignoring her problems by living a wild existence. She drinks too much, is utterly selfish, and works as an Elf at a Christmas shop. She doesn’t really care about anyone or anything. Until she meets Tom. He is the complete opposite of Kate. He helps the homeless, loves life, and rides a bike. The pair spend time together and he encourages Kate to start seeing life differently. To notice the little things and pursue her dream of becoming a singer. Problem is, Tom has a nasty habit of disappearing for days and, unfortunately for Kate, he keeps his phone locked in a cupboard. Will she ever find out who this strange man really is?
The problem with this film is that there is a glaring spoiler in plain sight. It genuinely mystifies me how anybody could be fooled by it. When you realise what’s going on, and believe me it won’t take long, it becomes really difficult to carry on watching it. It made me genuinely angry. I was not only annoyed by how predictable it was but also how outrageous it is. The fact that somebody (Emma Thompson) thought up this idea and thought “yep, that sounds reasonable in every way” is crazy on so many levels. I don’t like providing spoilers in my reviews but if you’ve heard the Wham song of the title at least once then you know where it’s going. Oh, god it makes me so angry just thinking about it now.
And that’s before we get into the political and social elements of the film. It’s clearly trying to make plenty of points about what life is like in Britain in 2019. There are references to Brexit, the attitude towards European immigrants, and poverty. The problem is, these references sit really uncomfortably between comedy and social commentary. Something that means it is neither funny nor does it offer a strong message. Take Emma Thompson’s role as Kate’s mother. With a dodgy Eastern European accent and plenty of cliches, it feels like something you’d have seen 30 or 40 years ago.
What I can say about Last Christmas is that its heart is in the right place. I get what it’s trying to do and the general message of “be good to people and you’ll be happier” is a good one. The problem is, it delivers that message in such a ham-fisted way that it’s hard to concentrate. Everything is so saccharine and none of the main characters feels real. God, it’s even got a bunch of happy and quirky homeless people who start a choir. It’s a little embarrassing to even watch it play out.
I didn’t think that I would ever watch a film like this that would infuriate me as much as Yesterday. Although, at least Yesterday loved the music of the Beatles and made it clear why the music was so important to the plot. Aside from the title, there is no clear link between the story and the music of George Michael. It has no respect for the music and just uses it incidentally whenever it remembers. I don’t get the connection and it feels like a shameless attempt to scrimp as much money out of his legacy as possible. Look at something like Blinded by the Light which really got the heart of what Springsteen’s music meant to people. Then compare it to this garbage.
Last Christmas is a mess of a film. I didn’t think Emma Thompson could be part of a Christmas film that was worse than Love Actually. Now, it seems, she’s not only managed to do that but she is partly responsible for writing it. The woman who won an Oscar for her adaptation of Sense and Sensibility has co-written one of the worst films I’ve seen all year. Maybe the worst, I’ve not been good at keeping track.