U/A; Comedy, Drama, Romance
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Boris Isakovic, Lydia Leonard, Michelle Yeoh
Director: Paul Feig
This film starts out as a typical Christmas tale – it’s about a blatantly rude and selfish heroine coming to understand the twin joys of seeking forgiveness and giving, just in time for Christmas. But just before we get to hate the heroine to the point of no return, the writers Emma Thompson, Bryony Kimmings, Greg Wise and director Paul Feig pull the rug from under our feet. A subtle reveal turns the apparent construct to a more appealing and empathetic one. We get to understand Kate’s (Emilia Clark) unique angst and begin to commiserate with her alienation. That’s when this movie truly wins you over. As George Michael sings ‘Sometimes you’ve just gotta have faith.’
The moniker is obviously borrowed from George (Wham!) Michael’s album ‘Last Christmas’ and most of the songs on that tape (and previously unreleased ones) get to be highlighted, as this seasonally festive drama reaches its uplifting conclusion. The story, in fact, links itself to George Michael’s unexpected and shocking death from a heart attack on Christmas day by featuring the central character as an aspiring singer who finds herself out-of-sorts after a traumatic medical emergency. Thompson and company forge a strongly invested current narrative with the first generation immigrant Kate, (who hates to be called Katarina) and her Polish-origin family ( mother played by Emma Thompson, Father by Boris IsakoviÄÂ and sister Marta by Lydia Leonard) representing the dysfunctions and alienations of a Brexit embroiled London.
Michelle Yeoh as the Chinese origin Christmas shop owner Santa, brings on the smiles aplenty while displaying eccentricities that tie itself to oriental affectations. Henry Golding as Tom Webster who works in a homeless shelter ( in real life George Michael was also reported to have done so, anonymously), a sprinkling of minor Black, Hispanic south Asian origin supporting characters, an assortment representing the homeless, some strongly worded political commentary make this experience a powerfully inclusive, diversity representing, sometimes othered, immigrant one.
The way Clarke plays Kate tilts the experience towards a unique, intriguing and fulfilling one entirely. Even through all her nastiness, Kate’s wistfully entrancing smile keeps the optimism alive. Golding’s Tom, who guides her back from the brink, may not be as magnetic but will resonate nevertheless. This film glows with a positivity that gets to you. George Michael’s unreleased “This Is How (We Want You To Get High)”, playing out at the end credits heightens the nostalgia sentiment. This is a much deeper and subtly affecting experience – different from the slew of Christmas films trotted out during Christmas time!