'Last Christmas' Serves up Festive Holiday Treat With Emilia Clarke (Review)

In what might be one of the past decade’s most surprising holiday romances, Last Christmas is an [...]

In what might be one of the past decade's most surprising holiday romances, Last Christmas is an endearing stocking stuffer for audiences this season, sure to warm up even the coldest of hearts. Brimming with Yuletide cheer, sincere performances and spirited jams, the hard-to-resist festive love story picking inspiration off George Michael's Wham! classic of the same name is a tender tale that soars far above the usual realm of Christmas rom-coms.

While some might expect a Lifetime or Hallmark Channel kind of story that has inundated television in recent years, the Paul Feig-directed film certainly sets itself apart with its own styling and storytelling led by the ever infectious and bubbly, Emilia Clarke.

Fresh off the heels with her fiery role in Game of Thrones, Clarke illuminates in every scene with pure charisma as the down-on-her-luck Kate, an aspiring singer and actress who recently met with a health crisis and has since been perpetually subscribed to bad decisions. But as chance would have it, the 26-year-old Christmas decorations shop employee meets the quirky and light-hearted Tom (Henry Golding), a bicycle courier and homeless shelter volunteer whose continuous presence gives her life a whole new meaning — that is until things eventually prove too good to be true.

Sincerely funny and playful with a plethora of tender moments lighting up every nook of the film's frames, Last Christmas is a luminous holiday movie that comes off more modern in its tone than schmaltzy, allowing for some very genuine dialogue that will tug at your heartstrings.

While anything more plot-related would head into spoiler territory, the film, co-written by Clarke's co-star and on-screen mother, Emma Thompson, offers up a twist that is far more nuanced than audiences might be expecting. Though Last Christmas sticks to some of the genre's prior tropes, it outdoes the norm through a multitude of layers and credible performances that are genuine and scarce in the usual holiday films produced.

Of all the performances, it's no doubt Clarke is a fireball that is easy to care for. Though her character might be a quirky mess of charm and cynicism, the former Mother of Dragons pulls it off with an empowering, sincere performance that will leave you fully invested and curious. Clarke also shares a sweet, easy chemistry with Golding as her character's sarcasm plays off most fruitfully from his optimism, giving air to some heartfelt moments between the two. The pair is impressively complemented by Thompson as Kate's overprotective, immigrant mother and Golding's Crazy Rich Asians co-star, Michelle Yeoh, who plays Kate's boss at the all-year Christmas decorations store. The two legends liven up the film most effortlessly and manage to round out the film's tough moments that reflect a candid realism in the circumstances met.

Needless to say, among the movie's allure is the nostalgic pull from Michael's 1980s classic, "Last Christmas" that very loosely, derives its title and story from the song's premise, interlacing a whole lot of the late singer's magnetism — including a blessing before he passed for Thompson and her husband, co-writer, Greg Wise.

Delivering a plethora of essential holiday movie fixings, Last Christmas' could grow into a classic among beloved modern festive flicks like, Love, Actually or The Holiday with its sweet and touching premise. With a heartwarming conclusion and message that balances every moment captured perfectly, Last Christmas pulls it all off with a darling cast, gorgeously glitzy London setting and earns its laughs and tears — many of which even occur in the same scene. Warm and delightful, Feig and Thompson's collaboration is an entertaining romp that succeeds in pure escapism for a rare holiday gem, leaving you feeling the best kind of warm and fuzzy feelings this season.

Last Christmas is in theatres now.

Photo credit: Universal Pictures