Follow TV Tropes


Film / Last Christmas

Go To
"You’re going to make mistakes, and that’s okay. You’re made of everything you do."
Kate: I’m just scared all the time. They just expect me to be normal and get on with life.
Tom: There’s no such thing as normal, and just being a human being is hard. Maybe you should do something nice for someone.

Last Christmas (2019) is a romantic comedy film directed by Paul Feig and written by Bryony Kimmings and Emma Thompson, who co-wrote the story with her husband, Greg Wise. It stars Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh and Fabien Frankel, and features the music of George Michael and Wham!. The film was released on 8 November 2019 in the United States and Canada and 15 November 2019 in the United Kingdom by Universal Pictures.

It follows a young woman named Kate (Clarke), who has been continuously unlucky. She clashes with her family, has had a serious health scare in the past, and loathes her job at a Christmas-all-year shop in London, and dreams of performing on the West End. When Kate meets Tom (Golding) on the job, her life takes an unexpected turn.

Previews: Trailer

Tropers beware! Many of the trope names themselves are spoilers, so it is highly recommended you watch the film first.

    open/close all folders 

Last Christmas contains examples of the following tropes:

     A to L 
  • An Aesop: As Tom puts it, "Being a human being is hard." Life is difficult and often painful, and you're going to screw up. And that's okay. What matters is trying the best you can, and remembering that each day is a new start. If nothing else, you can at least be thankful you're alive.
  • Aloof Big Sister: Kate's older sister Marta is ambivalent towards her at best, but Kate's own attitude doesn't really help. They get better.
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl:
    • Santa is this when she's irritated with Kate... so, a good 50% of the movie. She defrosts later on.
    • In a similar vein, Marta is an Aloof Big Sister to Kate. Like Santa, she defrosts as her relationship with Kate improves.
  • Arc Words: "Look up."
  • Armour-Piercing Question: Santa's normally cool exterior of authority melting after Kate's irresponsibility forces her to violate the law causes a Stunned Silence in the latter, and the first signs of Character Development.
  • Artistic License – History: The film opens with a title card reading "Yugoslavia 1999", despite the fact the nation was broken up by 1992 as a result of The Yugoslav Wars and given that Kate's family are Croatians who moved to the UK following the wars. Though some would justify the date on that it takes place in what was FR Yugoslavia (later renamed Serbia and Montenegro in 2003, before splitting up three years later), her mother later says they come from Croatia (which had been independent since 1991). It's also unclear why they would emigrate later "because of the wars" when Croatia had been at peace for four years in 1999, after having won its independence in 1995.
    • One possible interpretation is that Kate and her family are ethnic Serbs from Croatia. This has the appeal of explaining why her family left in the first place, being part of a minority group under pressure, as well as the opening scene taking place in an Orthodox church and the fact that her family frequently refers to their country of origin as "the former Yugoslavia" rather than "Croatia" (something more frequently done by Croatian Serbs than Croatian Croatsnote ). However, this still doesn't explain the title card or the constant references to "the war" as the reason for their emigration.
    • The other possible explanation is that although Kate's family come from Croatia, they moved in during the early stages of The Yugoslav Wars to another part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, then relatively peaceful Kosovo, and later emigrated to UK during the Kosovo war in 1999. That would explain not only the title card "Yugoslavia 1999", but also a number of other details: their ethnicity never being clearly said onscreen, the reason "because of the wars" being in plural, as well as Kate's brief hesitation before engaging in conversation with other emigrants from Yugoslavia.
  • Awful Truth: The realization that Tom has been Dead All Along devastates Kate.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Kate's parents avoid each other, to the point where Kate asks her dad why they don't just split up. He replies, "Divorce is for the rich." The ending implies things might be getting a little better.
  • Becoming the Mask: Kate gets roped into volunteering for the shelter when she turns up looking for Tom but begins to genuinely like it, and even takes it upon herself to organize a benefit concert for them.
  • Berserk Button: Kate crosses Marta's when she brings up her closeted relationship with Alba in front of their ostensibly oblivious parents.
  • Beta Couple: Santa and Boy. Love at First Sight leads to them getting together with no drama, unlike Kate's romance with Tom.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kate makes amends with her friends and family and her benefit concert is a rousing success. However, she and Tom don't get together as he has been Dead All Along. Still, he's always going to be part of her (having donated his heart to her) and helped her get her life back on track after the trauma she went through.
  • Blithe Spirit: Tom is relentlessly optimistic and kind, constantly goofing around and dancing everywhere he goes, and makes it his business to make Kate happy again.
  • Boy Meets Ghoul: Gender-flipped. Tom is dead about a year, but that doesn't stop him from romancing Kate.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Downplayed. Tom tries to tell Kate she can't rely on him, which hurts her and makes her feel like she's being dumped. In actuality, he's trying to help her — not only is basing your whole happiness on your boyfriend unhealthy to begin with, it's especially unhealthy when he's dead. He was trying to prevent her heart from breaking more than it had to.
  • Butt-Monkey: Kate is one of these; she gets pooped on by a bird, disrespected by her boss in front of customers, and kicked out of her flat for accidentally electrocuting her roommate's pet fish, all just in the trailer.
  • Character Development: Kate becomes a lot less selfish and cynical, and gradually begins to regain the joy she once had. Notably, in the scene at Tom's apartment, she admits she isn't particularly glad she survived her illness and transplant. At the end of the film, though, she tearfully says, "We are so lucky to be alive."
  • Chekhov's Skill: Despite not having much luck in auditions, Kate is actually a genuinely good singer, which makes her a natural when it comes to organizing and performing in a benefit concert.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Averted, the opening scene takes place in an Eastern Orthodox Church. Possibly even inverted considering Kate's family is apparently Croatian, who are mostly Roman Catholic.
  • Courtly Love: Tom is very obviously smitten with Kate, but never actually makes a move on her, preferring to take her on walks and joke around with her to make her smile. It's Kate who has to initiate their first kiss, and he declines to take it further than that when she offers. She outright comments that she's not even sure if they're actually a couple at one point.
  • Cultural Cringe: Kate has trouble accepting her foreign heritage, mostly since she associates it with her absent-minded mother and neglectful father. She has to correct people to use her nickname rather than her full Croatian name, Katarina. One of the things that signifies her Character Development is when she comforts a Croatian couple after they are insulted by a racist for speaking in their native language. She introduces herself, in fluent Croatian, as "Katarina".
  • Dance Party Ending: Subverted twice in a row, amusingly. Two of the final scenes feature groups of people dancing and singing, but the actual final scene is Kate on Tom's memorial bench.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Katarina's mother, Petra, who is a survivor of the Yugoslav Wars and still carries heavy emotional baggage, putting a distance between her and her children.
  • Dead All Along: Tom. He was Kate's heart donor the year prior.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen:
    • Kate is more of a cynical snarker than an outright ice queen, but either way, she becomes much more approachable as she takes a level in kindness.
    • Santa is stern and sarcastic, but after she meets Boy and she and Kate reach an understanding, she shows her nicer side.
    • Marta becomes significantly less frosty after Kate makes the effort to patch things up with her.
  • The Dutiful Daughter: Marta, who became a lawyer because her parents wanted her to, and pesters Kate to go to her doctor's appointments so their mother won't worry.
  • Education Mama: Implied. Marta says that she didn't actually want to be a lawyer all that much, but her parents insisted because her dad couldn't practice law anymore after they moved to the UK.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Santa's real name is hard for non-Chinese-speakers to pronounce so she chooses her nicknames based on where she works. She called herself Kitty when she worked at a pet shop, Miso at a health food shop, and Muffin at a bakery.
  • Fangirl: Kate is one for George Michael. One of her first scenes has her singing along to one of his songs at a bar. The next scene has her hearing a painfully cutesy, sung-by-kids version of "Last Christmas" playing at her workplace, cringing, and whispering to herself, "I'm sorry, George."
  • Foreshadowing: Loads.
    • "Last Christmas, I gave you my heart..." Literally. Tom died around Christmas last year, and he was Kate's heart donor.
    • In the intro, young Marta is seen checking out/smiling at a choir girl with a look that indicates more than just friendliness. Her father notices this, but doesn't say anything, perhaps explaining his easy acceptance of her girlfriend at the end of the film.
    • No one else ever interacts with Tom, and Santa comments that she has yet to actually see him. When Kate decides to change her clothes at a public area, Tom shields her with his coat, but a couple of guys catcall her all the same. As the reveal shows, she was actually changing clothes publicly.
    • Kate notices how unnaturally tidy Tom's flat is. He hasn't actually lived there in months, and the realtors keep it clean for showings.
    • Funny how Tom only seems to have one outfit...
  • Funny Foreigner: The cultural details of Kate's family's Croatian background are fairly consistently Played for Laughs, though with affection.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Present between Kate, the "pretty one" who sleeps around and wants to become an actress, and is the implicit favorite, and Marta, the "smart one" who's a lawyer, The Unfavorite, and an ice queen who later defrosts. Unusually, the "pretty one" is the protagonist, and the rivalry dies down after both sisters acknowledge that the other has legitimate problems.
  • Hate Sink:
    • There isn't much to the judging panel for Kate's first audition shown onscreen besides the fact that they're jerkasses. Refusing to let Kate audition because she's late? Understandable. Rejecting her? Valid, her performance was hardly her best effort. But to bait her into thinking she had a chance just to call her shit and laugh at her? Plain cruel.
    • That random jackass on the bus who tells two immigrants, who are simply minding their own business and having a conversation in their native language, to either speak English or go back to where they came from. Kate makes a point to apologize for his behavior.
  • Home-Early Surprise: The opening scene has Kate spending the night with a man who lets her use his shower while he leaves the apartment. While taking a shower, the man's girlfriend suddenly shows up to shout surprise while removing her clothes, only to find Kate in there.
  • Hope Spot: After the Second-Act Breakup, Kate's Character Development reaches its apex. She chooses to focus on her health, helps organize a benefit concert for the shelter, and goes out of her way to make amends for all her past wrongdoings. She even patches things up with her sister! The next step is to go to Tom's apartment to make up with him, too, and that's when she finds out Tom hasn't lived there in a year.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Kate intends to audition for an ice show despite never having skated before, her plan being to "wing it." Tom points out that this will not end well, so the pair sneak into a skating rink so she can practice. The next day, the audition goes pretty well, and one of the people casting the show comments to Kate that they get loads of people who show up unprepared, some never even having been on the ice before. Kate's response is to force a laugh, wondering aloud who would be that unprofessional.
  • Important Haircut: Kate used to have long, dark hair. In the present day, her hair is short, blonde, and often messy. In this example, the haircut marks character regression instead of growth.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Kate is cynical, sarcastic, and sometimes selfish, but she's a kind person deep down. She makes amends with her family, and organizes a charity concert for the homeless shelter.
    • Santa, Kate's boss. Underneath all the snark is a good-hearted woman who cares for Kate and wants her to be better. And the reason she owns a Christmas store in the first place is that she loves Christmas (as opposed to those stereotypical movie and TV bosses who are bitter because they hate their jobs).
  • The Klutz: Kate is quite klutzy. It's less adorable trait than it is... well, realistic.
  • Lap Pillow: Tom holds Kate in his arms and lets her head rest on his lap when she finally talks to him about her past illness.
  • Lazy Bum: Santa dubs Kate "Lazy the Elf," because she never seems to do her job.
  • Lethal Chef: Marta. Her girlfriend Alba, on the other hand, is a great cook, to everyone's relief.
  • Lets Wait Awhile: After an extremely emotional conversation in his apartment, Tom allows a tipsy Kate to sleep it off in his bed, and curls up next to her. They cuddle and share a kiss, but he declines to go any further than that, saying they should hold off until later. Of course, given The Reveal, "later" never comes.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Because we only see him outside in the cold, Tom pretty much exclusively wears jeans and a winter coat. He's wearing the outfit he wore when he was struck by a car a year ago.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Marta and Alba, her roommate, act or dress no differently than the straight women in the film, letting it be a surprise that they're also in a relationship.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Despite her protests to the contrary, Kate begins to rely on Tom for emotional support and her newfound happiness. He tries to gently tell her that she shouldn't rely on him, causing her to break up with him in anger — which means he doesn't have a chance to explain that she shouldn't rely on him because he's not actually living at all.
  • Living in a Furniture Store: Kate comments on how tidy Tom's flat is. It's so tidy because he hasn't actually lived there in months, and the realtors keep it clean for showings.
  • Loveable Sex Maniac: Kate provides a Rare Female Example. Santa even offhandedly remarks that all Kate thinks about these days is screwing random hot guys and then promptly disposing of them, although usually not until her casual hook-ups somehow land herself in hot water (e.g. getting herself kicked out of the sleeping quarters her friends had graciously supplied, twice in a row).
  • Love at First Sight: Santa and Boy, much to Kate's bemusement.

     M to Z 

  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Tom is a Rare Male Example, his quirkiness and lust for life brightening up the decidedly gloomy Kate. Kate even remarks he should get "saint" tattooed on his forehead.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Downplayed, as it's only really with regards to their narrative roles. Kate is the Troubled, but Cute protagonist who is also a bit of an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist and a whole load of Loveable Sex Maniac; Tom is her Manic Pixie Dream Boy, and a pretty textbook case of one, with all his charming strangeness.
  • Maybe Ever After: It's lightly implied that Nathan, one of the volunteers at the shelter, has a crush on Kate, and perhaps, after she's had some time to move on from Tom, they might get together.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's left ambiguous enough that the viewer can either see Tom as a ghost, or as Kate's brain working through the trauma of her heart transplant. It's never even made clear which stance Kate herself takes.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: We open with Kate singing in a church choir as a young girl, before cutting to her singing along to the same song at a bar as a young adult.
  • Mistaken for Gay: When Tom tries to confess his secret to Kate, she at first thinks he's about to tell her he's gay, or worse, married.
  • Never My Fault: Kate is accused of this in the trailer. However, the line isn't in the film proper, and part of her Character Development is owning up to her wrongdoings.
  • Nice Guy: Tom's defining trait is how unrelentingly kind he is. Even his own death isn't enough to stop him from caring for people.
  • Not So Above It All: Kate's delighted to find out that no-nonsense Santa isn't immune to falling in mutual Love at First Sight with strange, tall men. As much as Santa would like to pretend she is above all that, the charade lasts for all of a few minutes.
  • Once More, with Clarity: After Kate realizes Tom is dead, we see previous scenes of them together, and it's shown that she was in fact alone, at least from an outsider's perspective.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Kate's name is actually Katarina. It's implied she started going by a more traditional English name in order to fit in better after she immigrated.
    • In a similar vein, "Santa" is in no way the shop owner's real name. Her actual name is Chinese, so she uses nicknames when dealing with English-speaking customers. She was "Muffin" at a bakery and "Kitty" at a pet shop.
    • Santa has difficulty pronouncing her boyfriend's name, so she dubs him "Boy," and it sticks.
  • Open-Minded Parent: Despite Marta's fears to the contrary, Kate and Marta's parents are welcoming to her girlfriend Alba at the end of the film.
  • Parents as People: Kate thinks her mother's a piece of work. Her sister Marta eventually validates this belief, but also points out that they're all pretty screwed up. Even though her mother is flawed, she's been genuinely depressed. When Kate and Marta patch things up both in terms of their familial relationship and their own lives, they bring their mother with them. Their father, who is characterised as rather neglectful in the past, gets to rejoin the mended, happy family too.
  • Period Piece: The film is set in the aftermath of the Brexit vote (2017) and the ramifications of the yes vote impact Katarina's first-generation immigrant family.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Tom works at a homeless shelter, but he never seems to be there, even when Kate shows up to look for him. Being dead will do that.
  • Really Gets Around: Kate is pretty promiscuous at the start, having casual sex with different guys in quick succession. Judging by what Santa says, it's her usual habit around Christmas.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Santa doesn't fire Kate after her carelessness led to her store being robbed, although she warns that the next time will be the last straw.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The plaque memorializing Tom on the bench has always been there, from the first time Tom and Kate have their romantic night. Only after The Reveal does the film zooms to show what it says.
  • Running Gag: Kate correcting her family when they call her "Katarina". A poignant moment later on has Kate seeing a couple of Croatian migrants being insulted in a racist attack. When she approaches them, she introduces herself as Katarina.
  • Satellite Love Interest:
    • Tom is only ever seen hanging out with Kate. He mentions having a job at a homeless shelter, but we never see him there. Turns out, he never interacts with anyone besides her because he can't.
    • Boy basically exists to be one half of the comedic Beta Couple with Santa.
  • Scars are Forever: Kate has a scar between her breasts from when she had a transplant. Somewhat justified since it has only been one year since the surgery.
  • Second-Act Breakup: Per the norm for the genre, Tom and Kate have a fight that ends with her storming off in anger in the second act. She actually gets over it and is willing to try and make up within a few days, though. Unfortunately, when she goes to his apartment to talk to him, that's when she finds out the Awful Truth.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • Though it isn't evident at the beginning, Kate is revealed as having been very deeply traumatized by her near death from a heart condition, which necessitated a transplant. Despite surviving, she's felt depressed ever since, and even tells Tom it might have been better if she'd died. Her parents appear to know her cheerful, snarky demeanor is a facade and worry about her, though aren't aware she's that depressed. She starts to get better in the course of the film.
    • Kate's mother, Petra, is a survivor of the Yugoslav Wars, and saw all of her friends die. She was so traumatized that she refuses to socialize with her neighbours upon moving to the UK.
  • Shipper on Deck: Kate supports Santa getting together with Boy, and even invites him into the shop again so he'll ask her out.
  • Sleep Cute: Tom lets a tipsy Kate sleep in his bed, and she invites him to join her. The two snuggle and fall asleep together.
  • Soulless Bedroom: Lampshaded when Kate visits Tom's apartment, and notes that it's weirdly empty, only having basic furniture with no decorations or personal items around, and is so clean and well-kept, it's actually a bit creepy, and doesn't match Tom's lively and energetic personality at all. This turns out to be a clue that Tom has been Dead All Along; this was his apartment until about a year ago, when he was struck by a car on his way home and died. The apartment hasn't been sold yet, and the realtors keep it clean for showings.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: Beneath her abrasive facade, Kate is scared and under pressure to be "normal" despite all her trauma.
    Tom: There's no such thing as normal, and just being a human being is hard.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Whether you see Tom as the ghost of a young man who falls in love with her, or simply a figment of Kate's imagination, it was clearly never meant to be.
  • Stealth Pun: Kate is upset that Tom doesn't always show up when she is looking for him. You could say he was ghosting her.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: Unless fans have seen the trailers or the film, many would notice that the Wham! song "Last Christmas" features specific timing of the lyrics "Last Christmas, I gave you my heart..." which gives away major plot points involving Kate's traumatic illness and Tom being Kate's heart donor.
  • Spoiler Title: Even if you've never heard the song Last Christmas, it features in the soundtrack and the trailer. Just to make sure the twist wasn't a surprise to anybody watching.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Unable to find a full-time job, Kate had to crash on her married best friend, Jenna's flat. Although Jenna was initially supportive, she became more and more irritated by Kate's immaturity and selfishness, while her husband, Rufus, is downright vindictive. The couple decide to kick her out after one too many careless actions.
  • Title Drop: The film's title after the Wham! song appears through the trailer, which Kate covers later on in the film.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: That Kate used to be ill and other pretty major plot points are given away in the trailer.
  • Took a Level in Cynic: It's implied Kate was much less cynical before her illness.
  • The Unfavorite: Kate's sister Marta is established as one from the get-go.
  • The Unpronounceable: Santa's love interest has a hard-to-pronounce name, so she just calls him "Boy". When Kate remarks that she has an easy-to-pronounce name, she reveals that her real name is the very Chinese Huang Qing Shin, which Kate obviously can't pronounce.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Santa and Kate argue and snark at each other a lot, and Santa makes it clear she is not impressed with Kate's performance as of late, but it's obvious she cares very deeply for the girl, even if she denies it.
  • Waiting for a Break: Kate doesn't consider herself a "career elf," and goes to auditions in between shifts. She later decides to take a break from auditioning for a while, realizing the process wasn't good for her state of mind, and focuses instead on her job and her newfound volunteer work. Santa notes that this is an unusually mature choice.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Multiple characters call Kate out on her selfishness and thoughtlessness. She eventually admits they're right and works on improving herself.
  • Worthless Foreign Degree: Kate's father was a lawyer in the former Yugoslavia. When they fled the country during the war, they couldn't afford the money needed for him to get licensed to practice in Britain so he's stuck working as a cab driver.

"We are so lucky to be alive."