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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Dec 1, 2019



‘LAST CHRISTMAS’ is a Christmas movie, so if you are a cynical Scrooge who doesn’t believe in Christmas and its magic, don’t watch this as you’ll frown on it and find it silly. We love Christmas films like “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Miracle on 34th St.” and “Home Alone” that have become lovable Yuletide classics.

The last Christmas-themed movie we found really heartwarming was the British rom-com, “Love Actually”, in 2003 with its omnibus stories and multiple characters. Since then, we had forgettable Christmas flicks like “Office Chistmas Party”, “Bad Moms Christmas”, “The Nutcracker & Four Realms” and “Bad Santa”. “Last Christmas” is inspired by the hit Christmas song of the late George Michael and if you know its lyrics, the gist of the story is already in its very first line.

The film is unapologetically sentimental and is definitely not a Christmas romcom, co-written by Emma Thompson (who played the unsuspecting wife of the late Alan Rickman in “Love Actually”) with Bryony Kimmings, and directed by Paul Feig (best known for the hit comedy “Bridesmaids”).

They’ve infused their holiday film with a lot of crowd-pleasing elements that grouches and grinches will no doubt find corny, especially the twist with its element of whimsy in the narrative where one character turns out to be the equivalent of the angel Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life” who helps turn the life of the main protagonist for the better.

Emilia Clarke (the “Game of Thrones” star who’s the most successful in crossing over to the big screen) is Katerina, but she prefers to be called Kate, as her full name reminds her of her roots. Her family are migrants from the erstwhile Yugoslavia to escape the war and her overbearing mom is played by Emma Thompson (a scene-stealer, specially when she speaks and sings with an accent).

Kate had a heart transplant and her life is a mess. The movie is actually about her redemption from being a bad ass who doesn’t believe in Christmas to a better version of herself who even gets to help some homeless people.

The one who helps her achieve this is Tom, played by Harry Golding, whose Hollywood career has really prospered since “Crazy Rich Asians”. He was also seen in “A Simple Favor” and, after “Last Christmas”, he has already completed three other new movies: “Monsoon”, “Snake Eyes” and “The Gentlemen”.

Tom is a mysterious guy who works as a volunteer in a shelter for the homeless and his best advice to Kate is to always look up. He doesn’t use a cellphone and also refuses to sleep with her even if she wanted to. (The reason will be revealed later, but we won’t reveal it here as it will be an enormous spoiler for you. Hint: this is a better version of a Toni Gonzaga flick which has a similar fantastic twist.)

Kate is quite self-destructive and such a burden to the people around her. Her friends end up throwing her out when they stay with them. Even her sister, Marta (Lydia Leonard), more of an achiever than her, hates her for outing her out to their parents as having a lesbian lover.

Kate seems to be a promising singer but she never really pursued it as a career and now works as an elf or helper in a Christmas department store owned by a Chinese named Santa (Michelle Yeoh, who has amusing moments of her own). She is often negligent and even gave thieves an easy excuse to rob their store.

Emilia delivers a charming, vibrant performance that makes you root for her so she’d eventually heal, move forward and find happiness. She has a pretty good chemistry with Henry who succeeds in being the winning light at the end of the tunnel of this down-on-her-luck flawed heroine.

The film is a tribute to George Michael and is set in 2017, a year after he passed, and we hear many songs of his including those from his days with WHAM. We just wished “Careless Whisper” was somehow included. Of course, since this is about Christmas, we also get to hear many Christmas carols sung by Emilia herself amidst the tinsel-decorated landscape that fills us with the warm holiday spirit.

You can call the twist manipulative and calls suspension of disbelief, but it certainly worked for us and the film has a political message too about the cruel treatment of immigrants today not only in London but Europe in general. Take note that they also cast two Asians in major roles that can be very well be given to Caucasians.

The film might not click this time since there are much bigger movies being released simultaneously with it, but we have a feeling the sweet sparkle it exudes will make it a perennial feelgood Christmas favorite in the years to come.