Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Emilia Clark and Henry Golding star in Last Christmas.

Universal Pictures

  • Last Christmas
  • Directed by Paul Feig
  • Written by Emma Thompson and Bryony Kimmings
  • Starring Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding and Emma Thompson
  • Classification PG
  • 102 minutes


2.5 out of 4 stars

Sometimes a movie invites you into an emotional journey and you come out of the theatre changed. And sometimes you involuntarily tear up because that’s on the menu. Last Christmas does little to upend holiday-movie conventions – instead, everything on the turkey-season wish list is here, including a showdown at a family meal.

Based on a story by Emma Thompson and husband Greg Wise and directed by Paul Feig (Spy, Bridesmaids), Last Christmas is a jukebox-musical holiday movie that’s named for (and loosely plotted around) one of the George Michael hits it deploys in key moments – sometimes instead of emotional texture, sometimes as punchline. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go after oversleeping, Faith for the restored-confidence scene and Freedom for the redemption montage. Although arguably, the most inspired musical cue isn’t even from Michael – it’s Roland Gift’s refrain of She Drives Me Crazy, our heroine’s custom ringtone for her overbearing mother.

Reviews of films opening this week: Martin Scorsese’s gift The Irishman, and the familiar and formulaic holiday tale Last Christmas

The movie opens in the former Yugoslavia in 1999, where young Katarina leads a choral arrangement of George Michael’s Heal the Pain. It picks up again in London during the first Christmas season after the Brexit referendum, Katarina and her family having since fled the Balkans. Katarina is now aspiring actress Kate (Emilia Clarke), who doesn’t earn enough in her retail job to have an apartment. A recent illness has put her in a tailspin, and she’s estranged from her family, so she couch-surfs with friends and hook-ups until her dissolute ways finally alienate them all. (Clarke, however, is so radiantly charismatic that you can understand why they all forgive her.)

Story continues below advertisement

New friend Tom (Henry Golding) helps Kate out of her funk. At first he’s just a friendly guy who hits on her at Yuletide Wonderful, the holiday shop where she works year-round (attired as an elf). She initially shoos him away, but after a series of so-charming quirky excursions, like a dead-of-night ice-skating lesson and a secret garden walk, she decides he’s a Christmas prince charming. She clearly hasn’t noticed that Golding’s Tom is peculiarly blank and guileless or that he seems to have just the one Uniqlo outfit, and she figures they must be soulmates. Naturally, this is when he starts ghosting her.

Clarke is enormously charismatic in the film's lead role.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Prime/Uni/Universal Pictures

But not before she starts volunteering at the local shelter where Tom apparently works and becomes grateful that, unlike so many others, she has a home to go back to. More A Christmas Carol than a Christmas rom-com (but just as corny), the London setting will invite comparisons to other critically panned but popularly beloved, now-classic contemporary Christmas movies. Even if the Bittersweet And Very British Emma Thompson Holiday Movie you watch religiously every year is the other one (Peter’s Friends), and Last Christmas has fewer memorably meme-able moments, there’s a lot in this movie to like if not love, actually.

There’s the parade of cameos, from Patti LuPone as a nativity-obsessed customer to Peter Serafinowicz and Rob Delaney as a theatre producer and director who heckle Kate during her audition. Add to that the affectionate critique of atrocious, nonsensical Christmas kitsch, stocked here by Santa (Michelle Yeoh), who loves Christmas “more than taste or sanity.”

All this while making points about xenophobia, assimilation and people changing their perspective during the holidays. It’s a riff on the mix of gallows humour, social commentary and heartwarming uplift perfected by Frank Capra. Thompson adds in plenty of pleasantly odd and funny bits (one customer asks, “Do you have anything … dissimilar”) and throwaway skits between beat cops are a reminder that before working with Wham!’s hit holiday earworm or the Jane Austen material that earned Thompson her best-screenplay Oscar, she was a writer on short-lived sketch show Alfresco and is brilliant at improv.

Another of the movie’s pleasures is that it’s shot on location in contemporary London at Christmas time, with its hidden community gardens and arcades strung with fairy lights. Most of Kate and Tom’s outings take place at night in the twinkling, enchanted pedestrian streets that surround Covent Garden, with historic Victorian shopfronts and the antiquarian-booksellers’ row of Cecil Court. It’s a modern Dickensian delight.

The movie’s promised twist is obvious to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the titular hit lyrics and verges on the queasy, but I still won’t spoil it here. As Tom takes our stereotypically feckless, inconsiderate and entitled heroine on a redemptive journey – think Bill Murray in Scrooged by way of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – Last Christmas succeeds in its particulars, and in those moments, it’s a delight. Which is good because you’ve got to have faith to push through the central literal contrivance and the treacly third act, which even by Hallmark Channel standards is cloying in its exhortation to goodness, community caring and random acts of kindness. Even so, this familiar and formulaic holiday tale has its pleasures, unless your name is Ebenezer – and in the end, even he was mollified.

Last Christmas opens Nov. 8

Story continues below advertisement

Live your best. We have a daily Life & Arts newsletter, providing you with our latest stories on health, travel, food and culture. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies