This article was originally published by Russell Matthews on 5/11/19 for Reel Dialogue.
You would think that the romantic-comedy would be a mainstay for production companies, but they have become an endangered species in modern cinema. Some of it can be blamed on Netflix and Hallmark who continue to put out poorly produced and written romances that have jaded audiences to the genre. Another culprit in the mystery to find a quality rom-com could be the films that contain enough mature content or gross-out humour in them that they are less romance then soft porn or another Seth Rogen project.** Then to have a new entry in this market that is written by Academy-Award winning writer/actress Emma Thompson and holding an intriguing message of genuine romance and redemption… could there be hope for the romantic-comedy?
Emilia Clarke comes off of Game of Thrones with a role that seems to suit her persona without any dragons needed. She plays the title role of Kate, a shop-worker who has a penchant for bad choices. As the head-elf at Santa’s (Michelle Yeoh) Yuletide store in London, her life seems to have become an existence of junk food, alcohol and sleeping on whatever friend’s lounge she can find. Then one day a mysterious stranger named Tom (Henry Golding) comes into her life and begins to guide her life out of the downward spiral.
The young bike courier manages to discover why Kate is on this self-destructive path and encourages her to find a purpose for her life. One way is to reconnect with her imperfect, but loving family. All who are trying to help her through the darkest point in her life. Their relationship grows through their brief meetings and Kate finds herself dependent on Tom’s encouraging influence. She begins the journey to finding her voice and place in the world and even rediscovers her love for her family, but this is when Tom becomes less available and causes her to wonder where he goes when they are not together.
Even though the story takes time to gain momentum, Last Christmas does become a festive package for all of the romantics of the world. Thompson has written an endearing script that provides enough humour, fantasy, twists and amour to prove that the rom-com is alive and has hope for the future. George Micheal’s songs do manage to complement and add a bit of magic to this festive and endearing film.
Clarke can break free from her iconic role as Daenerys Targaryen and show that she can be a vulnerable and capable romantic lead. This bittersweet character allows her to show her whimsical and dramatic abilities alongside one of Hollywood’s up and coming heartthrobs. Henry Golding has managed to springboard off of Crazy Rich Asians and proves he can win the hearts of women the world around. With his second partnership with director Paul Feig who cast him in the long-forgotten A Simple Favour, both men have found a winning combination in this partnership. These strong leads are propped up beautifully with the scene-stealing performance of Emma Thompson. Her take on Kate’s Eastern European mother, Petra, is one of the most memorable of the year.
After kissing so many frogs, this is a romantic comedy that proves that you can find a princess or prince. Nothing is perfect and this is not destined to be a classic, but it does give hope to this genre. Providing the romantics come out to the cinemas and enjoy a night of holding hands, shedding a few tears and quite a few laughs. A thought that will cause some to gag, but this film is not for the skeptics, but the romantics of the world.
**Definition of a Seth Rogen project: Films with no taste or everyone was high when they wrote the script or both. Any film that uses masturbation, marijuana and f-bombs for humour. Every Seth Rogen film.