Last Christmas Parent Guide
An atypical, unpredictable romantic comedy blessed with a great cast and some incredibly positive messages.
Parent Movie Review
Despite working in a Christmas shop in Covent Garden, Kate (Emilia Clarke) has lost any festive spirit she might have had. Spiraling into full fledged grinch-iness, she is losing herself in alcohol, casual sex, and a bottomless well of self-absorption. She’s run out of friends who are willing to lend her couch-space, she’s in a state of constant conflict with her mother and sister, and she can’t get over the emotional after-effects of a serious health crisis. Then she meets Tom (Henry Golding), a handsome stranger who treats her with empathy instead of judgment. “Look up,” he tells her. As she takes his advice, she begins to rise above her despair.
Last Christmas is a difficult film to review because it turns on a plot twist I can’t describe without ruining the show for you. I also can’t share my reaction to it for the same reason. Suffice it to say, that even though this movie sounds like a typical rom-com, it’s anything but….
Compared to standard genre fare, Last Christmas stacks up well. It’s blessed with some outstanding actors: Henry Fielding oozes goodness and sincerity and his matinee-idol good looks shine on the big screen. Emilia Clarke (and her unbelievably expressive eyebrows) project spontaneity, spunk, and enthusiasm as honestly as she portrays fear and dysfunction. Emma Thompson, however, is a disappointment. I’m a big fan of Thompson, but as she plays Kate’s Yugoslavian immigrant mother, she repeatedly slips over the line from character into caricature.
Along with generally good acting, this movie is packed full of positive messages tied up in sparkling ribbon. It’s got individual themes on the need to accept yourself and forgive others. Parents will particularly love Tom’s advice about intentional living - the belief that we become what we do each and every day, thus our every deed shapes our characters. The film also demonstrates the benefits of forgetting yourself through helping others. As Kate throws herself into helping the homeless, she renews her zest for living.
The biggest gift this film gives parents is its relative lack of negative content. Although Kate drinks heavily to deal with her painful emotions, her alcohol use is not glamorized. Most surprisingly for a rom-com, there is no explicit nudity or sexual content. Although Kate has some one night stands, no sexual activity is seen, only implied the morning after. Parents who are trying to instill lessons about sexual consent in their teens will appreciate a scene where Tom refuses to have a physical relationship with Kate because she’s had a fair bit to drink and has shared emotionally intense memories with him. He refuses to take advantage of her while she’s in a vulnerable state.
Good points aside, this isn’t a flawless film. The pacing drags at times, there are some cheesy moments, and Kate can be very unlikable before she gets her act together. Still, while Last Christmas might not be the perfect gift under the tree, it’s far better than a lump of coal.Directed by Paul Feig. Starring Emilia Clark, Henry Golding, and Emma Thompson. Running time: 102 minutes. Theatrical release November 8, 2019. Updated November 8, 2019
Watch the trailer for Last Christmas
Rating & Content Info
Why is Last Christmas rated PG-13? Last Christmas is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for language and sexual content
Violence: We see a broken window after a break in. A woman says that all her friends were murdered in a war. There is a scene of surgery involving a small amount of blood.
Sexual Content: A man and woman kiss passionately. A woman has implied one night stands; there is no nudity or any detail. Prostitution is briefly mentioned. A woman is seen from the shoulders up in the shower. A character “outs” her lesbian sister in front of their parents.
Profanity: There are 17 uses of profanity, principally multiple uses of a scatological term and names of deity. There are frequent uses of slang terms for male and female genitalia in a non-sexual context.
Alcohol / Drug Use: The main character frequently drinks very heavily, despite a serious medical condition. She drinks to cope with stress or loneliness or other negative emotions.
Page last updated November 8, 2019
Last Christmas Parents' Guide
Why is Kate stuck in such a dark place? How does she cope with her emotional trauma? How do you cope with difficult emotional experiences? What mechanisms are healthy or unhealthy? What changes Kate’s perspective on her life? How does helping others help her? How has reaching out to other benefited you?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Richard Paul Evans, well known for his sentimental, heartwarming Christmas books has turned his talents to romantic tales in a trilogy which begins with The Mistletoe Promise. He also tells a Christmas love story in The Noel Stranger.
The classic tale of love at Christmas is O. Henry’s short story, The Gifts of the Magi.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott isn’t technically a Christmas novel, but this multigernational favourite features some wonderfully warm family Christmases.
Cynthia Hand’s Christmas fantasy novel, The Afterlife of Holly Chase is a romantic spin on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Instead of reforming her life upon seeing the Christmas spirits, Holly has died. But in the afterlife, she falls for a man who is very much alive.
Related home video titles:
If you’re looking for more romantic comedies, you can start with Last Holiday. Starring Queen Latifah it tells the story of a woman who learns that a rare brain tumor means she only has a short while to live. Determined to live life to the fullest, she cashes in her savings for her dream vacation.
Two women, shattered by relationship problems, impulsively decide to swap houses for the Christmas holidays. British journalist Iris winds up in California and move trailer producer Amanda heads for a cottage in Britain. Luckily, romance awaits in The Holiday.
For lighthearted fun and a touch of romance, fire up the Christmas classic, Elf. Buddy, the only human at the North Pole comes to the big city to find his real family.
The most warm-hearted Christmas story of them all is the Jimmy Stewart classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.
A non-Christmas rom-com that turns on a heart transplant is Return to Me. In Five Feet Apart two young teenagers can’t get physically involved because sharing bacteria would disqualify the young woman from a desperately needed lung transplant.