by Sophia Hsu / Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures
Everyone seems to have one of two reactions upon hearing those first few synth beats and George Michael’s vocalization; they either start absent-mindedly singing along or sigh-groaning in exasperation with a look of “oh, not again”. There is an explanation for that. Wham!’s “Last Christmas” is pervasive globally and has spent several weeks placing on the music charts practically every year since its release in 1984. It resurfaces every winter, sometimes even a month or two prior to Christmas. Without fail, even the most exasperated of us will quietly sing along with the chorus “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, and the very next day, you gave it away…” Wham! and George Michael’s music is interwoven throughout the movie with actually minimal “Last Christmas” presence for those of you who cringe when those first few notes begin to play. Top hits and b-sides are expertly sprinkled throughout pulling at the audience’s heart strings.
“Last Christmas” features Henry Golding of “Crazy Rich Asians” and “A Simple Favor” and Emilia Clarke of “Game of Thrones” co-written by Emma Thompson, a perennial favorite of too many films to list, plays the caricature-like mother to Emilia Clarke’s character Kate/Katerina. The ever youthful Michelle Yeoh who played Eleanor Young, the mother to Henry Golding’s Nick Young in “Crazy Rich Asians”, is the year round Christmas Shop owner Santa, among other aliases, with a heart of gold and a penchant for eccentricities.
The movie goes beyond the average, heartwarming holiday tale with a happily ever after. Sure, it has an elf, a Santa, loads of brightly colored lights, sweets, and snow, just like every other holiday movie, no spoilers here. However, the story explores global, current and age-old issues. The real fear that naturalized citizens feel when their adopted home becomes nationalized and unwelcome. A character comes to terms with the truth after trauma. The real, paralyzing fear of disappointing one’s parents forces you to keep secrets from them instead of sharing your joy with them. Finding one’s self after making a habit of bad decisions.
Far from being a perfect holiday movie, “Last Christmas” still manages to be effortlessly diverse. From languages to the cast, nothing feels forced or shoe-horned into the script. The cast diversity reflects the palette of London while avoiding the feeling of a checklist item getting marked off or a quotes being filled. Even the foods are not traditionally English but have become a part of British culture through the acceptance of immigrants (and in no small part through colonialism, but that is not this kind of movie). The dialog is laced with not only English which deepens the story instead of feeling like an accessory. Every diverse detail feels natural as it should.
Throughout the movie, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Something to the effect of “Surprise! Santa is Tom’s mother,” but alas, this is not the case, and this is not the spoiler you were looking for. For more about the movie, check out http://www.lastchristmasmovie.com.