This Christmas Store has Everything Except Mental Health

This Christmas Store has Everything Except Mental Health

When Last Christmas came out back in 2019, I was torn. On the one hand, it was a Christmas romance starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, and it looked silly and cute. But it also looked sad, and I don't like rom-drams nearly as much as rom-coms. And there was something about the preview that told me these two weren't actually going to get a happy ending. I knew there was a twist, and I thought Henry Golding was going to turn out to be Emilia Clarke's therapist and he was trying out some sort of innovative treatment where he takes her on dates and makes her fall in love with him and it turns out he's been lying and manipulating her the whole time. When they ended up together I'd have to forget everything I know about appropriate doctor-patient relationships in order to enjoy it. Well I will tell you, there is in fact a twist, but boy o boy did I not see it coming.

Kate (Emilia Clarke) is scraping bottom. She's just been kicked out of yet another roommate situation, and her charming one-night-stand turns out to be a scumbag cheater. She's still got her job at a Christmas-themed store, but barely; her boss, Santa (Michelle Yeoh) is sick of her being late and surly and slovenly everyday. Her career as a singer is at a standstill, and her family is worried about an unspecified health condition that she isn't managing. When she meets Tom (Henry Golding), she finds his positive attitude annoying, but he's determined to show her that life isn't as horrible as she thinks. He encourages her to "look up" and see the things she's missing. Over time, Kate is won over by his kindness, but frustrated by her inability to pin him down. Tom doesn't carry his phone, and when she shows up at the homeless shelter where he volunteers, they've never heard of him. Meanwhile, she's slowly starting to get back on her feet--she moves back in with her parents (Emma Thompson and Boris Isakovic), she apologizes to her friends for taking advantage of their hospitality, and she makes amends with her sister who has always felt ignored due to Kate's illness. But when she decides to try one last time to track Tom down, she gets a surprise that changes everything about their relationship.

Despite my initial misgivings, I really enjoyed this movie. I didn't realize that Emma Thompson was also on the writing team, which was my first clue that this movie would actually be funny and rich and complicated in a way I didn't expect. The Christmas store where Kate works had me wide-eyed with avaricious Christmas spirit. You can bet your buttons that if I walked into that store, I would be walking out with hundreds of dollars worth Christmas gibbons, Santas with "Jesus is my Homeboy" signs, and creepy Nativity scenes where the babies have teeth. Michelle Yeoh gets a charming and sweet romance of her own, and it really shows how talented she is that she can take a thin part and make it memorable. All the music is from George Michael's discography, which was a very fun trip down pop memory lane. Clarke and Golding have excellent chemistry, and there's a lovely emotional scene where they learn to trust and share with each other. All of that conspired to make me forget the oncoming twist, which was...a doozy.

You want to know what happens? This is your last chance to stop reading if you haven't seen the movie and want to avoid spoilers, okay? Cuz I'm gonna tell you right now...that Kate had a heart transplant one year ago, and Tom is the ghost of the man who died and whose heart was transplanted into her. Last Christmas, he gave her his heart...literally! There's a Fight Club-style sequence where she thinks back over all the things they did together and realizes she was alone, which means that the two times they kissed she was just, like, kissing air? In public? At one point, he's like, "you were gonna end up with my heart one way or the other," which is cute but also SO WEIRD in the context of his heart actually being inside her chest and keeping her alive. The things Tom taught her help Kate see the value and purpose in her own life, and she slowly starts addressing her emotions about the transplant and how her illness defined her and her place in her family. By the end of the movie, she's happy and healthy and ready to start living her life again...all thanks to her ghost boyfriend.

Weirdly, this was not the only movie I watched this week featuring an insane Christmas-themed store. I also watched Candy Cane Lane, the new Eddie Murphy Christmas movie, which is delightfully zany. Jillian Bell plays a rogue elf named Pepper and her performance is UNHINGED. I'm not reviewing it because it's not a romance, but it's definitely worth checking out.

What are you watching this season? Let me know!