Release Date: November 8th, 2019
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson
Director: Paul Feig
Studio: Feigco Entertainment
Distributor: Universal Pictures
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“Last Christmas, I gave you my heart…” Yeah. If you know that lyric, you know the plot of this movie.
Kate (Emilia Clarke) plays a depressed, aspiring singer. She immigrated to London from Yugoslavia (I promise that’s sort of important??) and lost her mojo a year ago after recovering from a heart transplant.
She’s now a mediocre performer, a selfish friend, and the world’s worst Christmas shop employee to the delightful Michelle Yeoh (who, alongside Emma Thompson, is the best part of the movie). That all changes when she meets the mysterious Tom (Henry Golding), who challenges her to better herself and her community. The pair fall in love, but we get the sense that there’s something a little ‘off’ about Tom.
Turns out he’s dead!
Worst. Twist. Ever.
He’s the one who donated the heart to Kate, and now they’re somehow connected. Like, maybe they were destined to fall in love, or maybe he’s like a guardian angel, we never really know what his whole deal is. Point is, only Kate sees him, and he says goodbye as soon as she figures it out.
It’s like that really bad heart donation Zayne/One-Direction fanfiction where Zayne is a living heart donor for his love interest (it’s so funny, google it.)
You guess it from the song, you guess it from the trailer, and you really, really hope you’re wrong (the writers couldn’t be THAT cliche, right?) the entire time you’re watching.
It’s sad this one went off the tracks because it had some good moments. There’s a delightful subplot with Michelle Yeoh falling for a quirky cabbage-expert. Clarke was excellent even when she didn’t have much to work with.
But then Kate’s depression spiral is like 3/4ths of the movie. I found it really hard to get invested in the character’s success because we never really get a sense of who it is we’re rooting for. We just see her mired in depression, without enough malice to make her a true anti-hero, but not enough charm to make herself the downtrodden victim of circumstance.
When things are finally looking up, we get the ham-fisted twist about Tom’s untimely demise. (Side note: it’s particularly unintentionally funny that his signature phrase was ‘Look Up’ when he was killed by a car for not ‘looking up’ while crossing traffic.)
There’s also a random underlying thread about xenophobia in the wake of Brexit, and a complicated relationship with Kate’s mother as a first-generation immigrant. This plot never seemed to tie with the rest of the film. Everything feels slapped together and unresolved.
All I want for Christmas is to be uplifted by a corny, heartwarming (lol) movie! I was expecting some so-bad-it’s-good Hallmark quirky charm, but what I got instead was the depression special, a dollop of poor writing, smothered in a toneless, sloppy mess.