Last Christmas (3 stars)

Last Christmas

Emilia Clarke stars in a syrupy but good-hearted rom-com, co-written by Emma Thompson

While actress Emma Thompson has a solid track record as a screenwriter (bagging an Oscar for her work on Sense and Sensibility and penning Nanny McPhee and Effie Gray), and has form with rom-coms as the co-writer of Bridget Jones's Baby, she's never entered full-blown Richard Curtis territory. Yet that's exactly what Last Christmas sets out to do – it's a saccharine romantic fantasy that's about as subtle as Oxford Street's illuminations.

Directed by Paul Feig, the sharp-witted American behind Bridesmaids, the film is flanked by the music of the late George Michael. Emilia Clarke plays Kate, a Yugoslavian immigrant (no, really) caught in a downward spiral. Her current job feels like a sort of hell – dressing as an elf to work in a gaudy Christmas store, run by Michelle Yeoh's strict owner.

Reduced to couch-surfing, even her friends are beginning to lose patience with chaotic Kate. But, as we gradually learn, she has been seriously ill – enough to leave her overbearing mother (a Slavic-accented Thompson) in a constant state of anxiety. Then, a man arrives on the scene: the mysterious, bike-riding, uber-charitable Tom (Henry Golding), who simply seems too good (looking) to be true.

The dreamy Golding, who rose to prominence in Crazy Rich Asians and also featured in Feig's last film, A Simple Favour, is the trump card here – exactly who many people would like to find under their Christmas tree. Comparatively, Clarke, who has yet to find a film role that comes close to what she had in Game of Thrones, struggles with an uneven character.

Whilst George Michael's music isn't incorporated as effectively as one might wish, Thompson and co-writer Bryony Kimmings take inspiration from the titular song for arguably the most telegraphed ending you'll see all year. Still, the 'good will to all' theme ensures that Last Christmas, for all its syrupy stylings, has its heart in the right place.

General release from Fri 15 Nov.

Last Christmas

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • UK / US
  • 1h 43min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Paul Feig
  • Cast: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh
  • UK release: 15 November 2019

Kate (Clarke) is a Yugoslavian immigrant whose life is going downhill until she meets the mysterious bike-riding Tom (Golding), who seems too good to be true. Thompson and Kimmings’ script is a saccharine romantic fantasy and George Michael’s music isn’t always incorporated effectively, but its heart is in the right place.