Susan Rowland, Author
Rave Review Last Christmas Movie for Mystery Writers
The Last Christmas (2019) movie has had poor reviews. So have many artistic works that become beloved. I loved this movie and think it conveys heartwarming succor to fiction writers as well as the battered and bruised audiences of this scary 21st century. First of all, Last Christmas does the traditional thing - just as Christmas itself is all about endless repetition of motifs and family gatherings. So the film gives us plenty of iconic images of festive lights, Xmas trees, holly and cheesy presents, all wrapped in the familiar bow of the newish London Romcom genre (a la Richard Curtis). In fact it does overkill of the aforementioned, helpfully condensing the sweetness of Too Much in an all year round Christmas shop in Covent Garden at Christmas.
So to our hero (“heroine” being a banished word for the modern writer) who is anti-hero, Kate, who dislikes everything about herself, including her birthname Caterina, with its links to her Croatian origins. She is forced back to the family shoebox by homelessness exacerbated by too much drink, selfish treatment of friends and indiscriminate shagging, Kate behaves thoughtlessly to sister and unhappy parents. Only her growing friendship with a mysterious bike-riding Tom, who can sometimes be reached at the homeless center where he volunteers; only Tom seems to be capable of reaching self-destructive Kate (played with gusto by Emilia Clarke).
What is so intriguing here is how the hackneyed messages of Christmas (be nice to people to find meaning) is joyfully renewed as Kate is tempted to sing again – first largely for the homeless – and then with them. Anti-hero becomes real hero, prompted, but not reliant upon, the cycling attractive romantic prospect. ‘Same again’ witty London romance morphs into redemption story. “Brief Encounter” lives for Kate and Tom, yet with a ghostly twist. Also there is a tough minded dedicated homeless worker to warn against Kate (and the audience, and the writers among us) as simply middle class do-goodery that ultimately is all about the problems of those who have everything compared to those sleeping on the streets. But brave Kate does not give up. She ends up producing the most joy-packed show that whips the talents of the destitute into a moment of transcendent Christmas cheer. It really works. I wanted to get up and dance to George Michael in the aisles.
For the Jungians amongst us, the story is one long, fabulous revision of C. G. Jung’s animus theory: from his notion that animus produces (O’ horror!) opinionated women to a gentle sacred marriage of inner wholeness ready to be shared with the whole world. Last Christmas movie is a genuine mystery with an unnatural death and misplaced body parts. More importantly, it is also an initiation into the real mysteries of why we might give up on ourselves, and how we can learn to love life again. It is therefore a rebirth story; it rebirths Christmas, renews genres, re-makes the hero archetype as a woman who experiences katabasis, descent and rescues herself. Kate in Last Christmas is Persephone who wrestles successfully with an overbearing Demeter and learns about love from her divine lover. Last Christmas movie teaches us to love our repeating genre because each iteration, like each advent, is looking forward to a birth of the spirit.