Illustration by Andrea Nebhut
Holiday movies are a great excuse to stay in for the night and just be lazy in front of the TV screen. However, you are the one who is supposed to be lazy, not the screenwriters of whatever holiday classic you have sat down to watch. “Last Christmas” reverses that, instead offering up a lazy plot while you struggle to keep all its strange moving pieces together. I certainly do not want to discredit the effort that went into making this film, yet I cannot help but notice the absence of the effortless comedy and interesting characters. Rather, we are left with a mediocre rom-com that serves as a forgettable opening to a holiday season that is still a ways away.
“Last Christmas” follows Katarina, or Kate for short (Emilia Clarke), a native to Yugoslavia since age 10 but who somehow maintains a perfect British accent, as she struggles to properly “adult” in 2017 London. Couch surfing across friends’ apartments because she hates her family for no real reason, and struggling to work as an elf in a Christmas shop,
Kate is no stranger to drunken nights and bar hookups as the filmmakers desperately attempt to convey how broken her life is.
Enter Tom Webster (Henry Golding), the absolute optimist whom Kate meets outside the shop she works at and who sees everything in a positive light, does not carry a phone, lives as a minimalist, works at the neighborhood shelter, and has some serial killer tendencies … Yes, during their first date/walk of the city, Tom takes her to “the most narrow alleyway in London.” Yikes! After many “dates” like these, Kate finally spills her woes to Tom, as he is the only person she can open up to, despite only knowing him for a few days. It is here that we get a minor plot twist before Kate decides to get her life back in order.
But the real struggle came with the absurd amount of side plots that are included throughout the film. Everyone and their mother, literally, get their own side story that has no link to the main plot other than Kate knowing them. Kate’s parents, her sister, her boss, the people she meets at the homeless shelter, the two street cops that appear everywhere and more, each get their own spotlight in separate stories ranging from finding their own love to Brexit and immigration tension with Yugoslavians.
The result is an uneven tone that shifts dramatically depending on who is on screen.
Normally, these side plots would not be harmful to the overall story; there are several movies that pull it off quite well. However, what this movie suffers from is the problem of wittiness. Every character is written to be this witty and sarcastic individual seeking to constantly deliver “comedic” one-liners every moment on screen. And while a rom-com is the perfect place for these characters, the beauty of such movies comes in the contrast between these witty characters and the more serious individuals throughout the movie. Kate’s sister (Lydia Leonard) was the only character to be taken seriously with real problems of jealousy and the drive for family approval. And watching such a story unfold was quite refreshing. Yet, when every character is seeking to install some kind of cynical philosophy on life throughout their screen time, it undermines the potential the diverse cast that the movie has.
However, I must give credit to the movies ending. The writers manage to pull off quite a plot twist that is hard to predict until it is explicitly shown. Despite the actual twist’s innate ridiculousness, it marks a relative success for the movie. If it had occurred to characters we had actually grown to care about throughout the previous three-fourths of the movie, that might have made the wait worth it.
Ultimately, “Last Christmas” seeks to tell a romance that is supposed to get us in the holiday spirit but amounts to nothing more than a forgettable venture that requires more work from its audience to connect all of its random and out of place moments. The movie is on Netflix, watch it there, don’t sit in the theater while there are better movies out there to watch.