Last Christmas (1999) starring Pauline Quirke, Ray Winstone, Phil Daniels, Philip Dowling directed by Adrian Shergold Movie Review

Last Christmas (1999)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Ray Winstone and Philip Dowling in Last Christmas (1999)

Discovering Dad

Nine year old Frankie (Philip Dowling) idolised his dad, Neville (Ray Winstone), but when he died it left a gap in his young life as he only has his mum Gwen (Pauline Quirke) and her friend Geoff (Phil Daniels). But then out of nowhere his dad, shows up, or at least shows up to Frankie as Neville is in the bit where he is not quite an angel and has been allowed back to spend some time with Frankie and help him come to terms with his death and moving on. But Neville's plans to show his son his version of how things were backfires when Frankie gets to see how things really were between Neville and Gwen.

Firstly "Last Christmas" is not a Christmas movie although some scenes are set at a Christmas. Anyway I remember as a young boy being taken to see Santa at a local shop and after going through the sitting on his knee business and telling him what I wished for Christmas I would get to put my hand in his sack and pluck out a gift. It was a lucky dip and so was watching "Last Christmas" as I could not find a single review of this BBC drama from 1999, all I could find was a cast list and that Ray Winstone played an angel visiting his son.

Phil Daniels and Pauline Quirke in Last Christmas (1999)

The thing is that "Last Christmas" initially makes you think this is a London take on a familiar theme covered by many a Hollywood movie such as "Jack Frost" and "An Angel in the Family". But the end result is a curious mix which doesn't seem entirely sure what it wants to be. On one hand we have some humour such as Geoff trying to romance Gwen but being incredibly awkward about it whilst we also have some comical escapades as Neville takes Frankie flying over the city and in to the past. And whilst compared to Hollywood movies it is weak it is kind of alright if more often than not awkward.

But then there is a grittier side to things with Neville showing that he is not the great dad which Frankie thought he was with Neville claiming that Gwen killed him. I won't tell you exactly what happens but it gives "Last Christmas" a different sort of edge to what you would get in a Hollywood counterpart and not something which everyone will enjoy especially those who sit down to watch it expecting a family movie.

The thing is that whilst "Last Christmas" ends up a bit confused it certainly keeps you watching as you want to know where it will end and how Neville died. You also find some of the humour such as Ray Winstone in a flashback scene with moustache and ponytail quite amusing even if the character itself is mixed up.

What this all boils down to is that "Last Christmas" doesn't quite work as it doesn't quite get the mix of humour and drama right. But it is still entertaining in a curious way which more than anything keeps you watching with that need to know where it is going to end up.