When life throws at you a hefty amount of trauma to navigate, over time it is frightfully easy to succumb to cynicism and allow it to clog up your once positively healthy heart, resigning yourself to never rediscovering that spark again. Especially when you’re staring the lavish excess of annual festivities in the face, where an etching of a happy face in front of the masses can be difficult to draw.
As a Christmas Eve baby who still feels like he’s piecing his life back together, after seeing Paul Feig’s love letter to London and the pitch-perfect back catalogue of George Michael ‘Last Christmas’, it’s tough not to embrace its mantra to ‘look up’ and give it all ‘One More Try’ this year…
Embodying this grand disillusionment in the film is Emilia Clarke’s employed elf, the happy-go-lucky Kate whose war-torn beginnings in Yugoslavia showed promise, with her strong voice being heaven to the ears of her overprotective and embarrassingly outspoken mother Petra (Emma Thompson on script duty here too).
Her kooky assurance on a stage hardly translates to her bright work surroundings in modern-day London however, with Michelle Yeoh’s impeccably dressed store owner ‘Santa’ throwing enough shade to dim the tree lights, eye-rolling at Kate’s distinct lack of direction. The key to opening her fragile heart lies in the goofy yet swoon-worthy figure of Tom (Henry Golding). Striking up an adorable relationship with him mocking the initial barrage of Kate’s snarky serial-killer remarks, he ultimately encourages her to be more inviting of new experiences, whilst confronting the insecurities she’s been reluctant to deal with.
Bringing his refined brand of female-driven comedy to our capital, director Paul Feig has a wonderful understanding of how to wholeheartedly embrace the ludicrousness of the occasion, along with the eccentric nature in which many of our classic comedy creations have revelled in.
The glorious cringe of Michelle Yeoh’s growing attraction to a strapping Scandinavian with peculiar festive figurines mere spectators to their romance. Grounded in the humbling confines of a homeless shelter with its spirited inhabitants torn on what some consider middle-class meddling on Kate’s part. Feig never over eggs his cinematic Christmas pudding which drips in sweet sentiment and is filled with inclusion, finding pure joy in its welcome subversion of the blunt Brexit rhetoric that doesn’t sour its solid script too much here.
Feig is no doubt relishing the use of such recognisable London locations like a lit-up Covent Garden and an Alexandra Palace ice rink too. His fondness pierces through the screen with his warm inviting observation, only heightening the impact of the late iconic voice of George Michael peppering its scenes, as we’re led to the promise of a previously unreleased song of his by the film’s gift-wrapped end.
Whilst those terribly familiar with the film’s initial trailer will undoubtedly guess the film’s predictable plot swerve, you can’t help but fall head over heels for its central pairing. Leaping from friend’s various sofas onto many an audience member’s Christmas party list, the awkward smiley demeanour of Emilia Clarke’s Kate works wonders as she lumbers from one questionable decision to the next, showing a willingness to be better. When not twirling around the streets, he’s giving us a cheeky impression of James Bond. It’s an endlessly charming turn from Henry Golding as Tom, with the initial mystery subsiding quickly as he strikes up a brilliant chemistry with Clarke. Arguably the film’s strongest performer however is Michelle Yeoh, who revels in the quirk of her character’s subplot, raising many hearty laughs in the process.
Sure, it’s unashamedly soppy and it’s not quite Flawless. But Paul Feig’s ‘Last Christmas’ will make you want to Go To The City. A fantastically festive treat.
Directed by: Paul Feig
Written by: Emma Thompson, Bryony Kimmings
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson