Emilia Clarke stars in Last Christmas, a film with George Michael roots and a host of festive fun.

I still feel that one of Sandra Bullock’s best ever performances is in the romantic comedy While You Were Sleeping. That was the film where she had to take a character who does some pretty horrible things, and find a way to make her likeable to the audience. Many have tried to repeat what she managed since, but Emilia Clarke in Last Christmas is one of the few to have nailed it.

Here, she plays Kate, a young woman who’s lonely, pushes people away and has to put on a happy face to go and work at Michelle Yeoh’s all-round festive shop. Her life is drifting, she can’t settle, she’s distant from her mother (Emma Thompson), and then into her life walks Henry Golding’s Tom. With Christmas approaching, what follows is a well-written mix of comedy, drama and George Michael music, with screenwriters Emma Thompson, Greg Wise and Bryony Kimmings taking the late music legend’s famous Christmas hit as a starting point. But this isn’t a jukebox musical. Rather, it’s a film with a lot more in the tank than you may think.

It’s certainly very funny, and Paul Feig proves again just what a strong director of comedy he is. But also there are well-drawn characters here, and the film has a few not always subtle points that it wants to make (and they do stick out). And it duly does. It’s also a film that embraces the festive spirit, shot in and around a lit-up London. It’s not shy of British talent either, with welcome cameos from the likes of Ingrid Oliver, Peter Serafinowicz and Sue Perkins.

But it’s Clarke who’s the flat out centre of the film. It’s a rounded, welcoming and human performance that she puts in, and it’d be a Scrooge-like heart that’s not rooting for her as the film enters its final act.

This, for me, is the best Christmas movie in ages from a big Hollywood studio. It’s fully aware that there’s more to a Christmas film than some music and tinsel, and it duly works hard – successfully – to give you your money’s worth. A treat.

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