IFF2020: Movie Review – The Last Christmas Party (2020)

The Last Christmas Party (2020)

  • Director: Julian Santos
  • Screenwriters: Kevin Nittolo, Julian Santos
  • Producers: Troy Enoka, Scottie Schwefel
  • Cast: Samantha Brooks, Anna Clare Kerr, Lainey Woo, James Williams, Martin Drop, Gabriel Armentano

Premise: THE LAST CHRISTMAS PARTY is a bittersweet holiday movie about the highs and lows of romance in college. The movie is told in nonlinear order and replays the same party from the perspective of three different couples. With its ensemble of characters, the movie paints a naturalistic depiction of young people in New York City, free from the usual nostalgia and cliches.

Currently screening virtually at Indy Film Fest 2020, The Last Christmas Party takes a vérité approach to its telling of intersecting romantic dramas playing out over one college Christmas party. Through three central couples, the film examines meaty relationship quandaries such as casual vs serious dating status, who’s really in love with who, and how individual decisions can wreak havoc on long-term relationships. The Last Christmas Party brings these elements together to form a worthy and contemplative entry in the tried and true subcategory of film that is the one night existential crossroads movie.

At its core, the through-line of the film’s drama is communication, or lack thereof. Whether it’s failing to disclose a potential serious decision to a long-term partner or telling a casual partner something they want to hear, The Last Christmas Party deftly handles the ins and outs of the couples’ drama as well as the individual characters’ actions within those couples. It cuts a wide swath in the relationship department, as a variety of romantic entanglements are covered throughout the movie. This creates a smooth pace as the attention shifts to different pairings and leaves the viewer yearning to stay in the world by the time the credits roll.

As the film moves us through each couple’s story, The Last Christmas Party replays the same evening from the perspective of couples whose night we’ve only seen fragments of out of context. This nonlinear approach is great for contextualizing encounters and delivering plot surprises. Yet, the film by no means relies on this narrative device strictly for entertainment or attention grabbing moments. In a refreshing change of pace from movies of its similar ilk, The Last Christmas Party merely uses this narrative device of revisiting out of context encounters to deliver us the couples’ arcs with a high amount of confidence in its storytelling.

As certain characters face significant decisions in their love life, there are some mildly intense interactions. Some of which are handled beautifully with a reliance on the performances to tell the story while adding some slight technical flare to complete the process. One particular sequence stands out as a couple who have left the party have an intimate, yet slightly vitriolic conversation about their future. The camera stands stationary with the actors in profile as they have their heart to heart. However, as if to convey the fragility of their relationship, the picture shakes slightly as the handheld frame gives the characters’ most dramatic moment more erratic tension. The fact that these characters have left the party and are in an entirely different location gives their story a sense of isolation and uncertainty that isn’t as prevalent in other character arcs in the film.

Elsewhere, The Last Christmas Party name-checks the “white knight” actions of a character who comes to the defense of a character he is interested in before subverting that trope within his own specific relationship arc. This storyline involves said character confronting the film’s overly masculine player stereotype character. Thankfully, the movie avoids a trope-laden plot by giving the white knight a compelling character arc, himself. While it doesn’t fully connect emotionally in the end, it is still a surprisingly complex piece of romantic drama that bucks the sugar sweet trappings of less nuanced relationship dramas in favor of a flawed character who makes ill-advised decisions.

The Last Christmas Party tells its intersecting relationship stories well and embraces a nonlinear format with confidence. While the stories within some pairings are stronger than others, the film is surprisingly nuanced where it counts and offers a complexity to some of its characters that is usually hard to find in this type of movie. By showcasing a strong handle of the inner workings of modern day college romances, The Last Christmas Party proves to be a strong one night existential crossroads movie.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lastparty2020/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lastpartyfilm/


About the Writer: Matt Hurt is the creator of ObsessiveViewer.com. He also created, hosts, and produces The Obsessive Viewer, Anthology, and Tower Junkies podcasts. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and lives in Indianapolis with his cat Pizza Roll. 

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