FILM REVIEW: ‘Last Christmas’ far cry from ranks of holiday classics

Henry Golding and Emilia Clarke in a scene from “Last Christmas.” Photo Credit: Jonathan Prime/Universal Studios

When a Christmas movie gets it right, it becomes an instant classic, a family tradition that gets re-watched every season and quoted all year long.

It’s been years since a new Christmas movie became a part of the fabric of the holiday in that way and I had great hopes that Last Christmas, written by Oscar-winning screenwriter and wickedly funny Dame Emma Thompson, would join the pantheon of truly great Christmas films.

I am sad to report it won’t be joining that esteemed group of films with the perfect blend of romance, cheese and holiday spirit. Tragically, Last Christmas is a very odd mix of Brexit, homelessness, ghosts and George Michael, a combination that literally no one has asked for.

Emilia Clarke (the Mother of Dragons to Game of Thrones fans) plays Katerina, a 26-year-old hot mess who has burned her last bridge in a fit of thoughtlessness, booze and a permanently embedded chip on her shoulder, the result of a heart transplant she received last Christmas but never emotionally healed from.

Henry Golding (the breakout star of Crazy Rich Asians) plays Tom, a part-time bike courier and all-round dreamboat who finds Katerina and the path of destruction she leaves in her wake undeniably attractive.

Emma Thompson and Michelle Yeoh fill out the cast as Katerina’s mother and boss respectively, in roles based almost completely on their characters’ ethnicity — broad and stereotypical at best and completely offensive at worst.

Not content to make a conventional holiday rom-com, Thompson has delivered a storyline filled with “important” topics on top of the romance.

Unfortunately, the added plot points feel like they were shoehorned in after the fact to make a romantic comedy more serious. It’s disappointing because Clarke and Golding couldn’t be more likeable in their roles – both are completely successful in turning bizarre character eccentricities into complex and layered characters.

On top of that, they have a believable chemistry. They could have made a great Christmas movie had they been allowed to.

So, Last Christmas won’t be joining the Christmas greats, though it will decimate any competition in the “Most Uses of George Michael Songs” category. The count reaches 15.

Take George’s advice and this year give your Christmas movie dollars to something special instead.

Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia.