Let’s Talk About That Last Christmas Twist

8 minute read

Warning: This story contains spoilers for the movie Last Christmas.

When the first trailer for Last Christmas dropped in August, many Twitter users speculated that there would be a twist. And those internet sleuths were right.

The holiday movie stars Emilia Clarke as Kate, a 20-something Londoner for whom nothing seems to go right. But everything changes when she meets Tom (Henry Golding), a dreamy but mysterious guy who pressures her to go on a date. Tom works nights, volunteers at a homeless shelter and doesn’t have a cell phone (or at least, he’s locked it in his cupboard).

Emma Thompson, who co-wrote the screenplay with Bryony Kimmings and the story with husband Greg Wise, plays Kate’s immigrant mother. Rounding out the cast is Michelle Yeoh, Golding’s Crazy Rich Asians co-star, as Kate’s boss, who is called Santa, at a Christmas shop. (Kate must wear an elf uniform while Yeoh’s character wears whatever she wants.)

Last Christmas, which is directed by Bridesmaids’ Paul Feig and features a soundtrack of George Michael music, premieres Nov. 8. For those who have not seen the movie and wish to avoid learning the fates of Kate and Tom, please bookmark this story, head to the theater and come back later. But for those ready to talk about what just happened, read on for a thorough accounting of all the clues that led up to that final Last Christmas twist.

Explaining the Last Christmas twist

Last Christmas
(from left) Tom (Henry Golding) and Kate (Emilia Clarke) in "Last Christmas," directed by Paul Feig.Universal Pictures

Many of the guesses on Twitter were right, after all. Tom died in a biking accident last Christmas, shortly after which Kate, who needed a heart transplant, received his heart. In their final scene together, after Kate learns the truth, Tom says that she was “always going to have my heart,” one way or another. Reader, I cried!

So, yes, throughout the movie, Kate was actually traipsing around London alone, talking to herself and even ice skating by herself. (And breaking into an abandoned apartment by herself, but more on that later.)

If this was your guess from the start, congratulations!

However, it remains unclear whether Tom is a ghost or just a figment of Kate’s imagination. TIME has compiled the details that paved the way for the film’s twist, as well as the plot holes and moments of misdirection that seem to muddle it.

Here were all the hints to the huge twist in Last Christmas.

“Last Christmas” is Kate’s favorite song

In hindsight, the movie’s title is a dead giveaway. While viewers are led to guess that the movie is called Last Christmas because Kate repeatedly says it’s her favorite song (and it plays at least three times from different toys in the Christmas shop), the twist reveals the title’s true meaning — and the significance of the song being Kate’s favorite. “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart,” is literally the exact plot.

Tom really avoids running into people

Early on in the movie, once Kate agrees to go out with Tom following his relentless pressure (including showing up at her work after she’s already rejected him, which feels more than a bit aggressive), she marvels at something strange about him: He does a goofy, loopy dance maneuver as they walk down the street. Why, she asks (and so do we), is he so weird? It’s only once the truth comes out that this finally makes sense — he is doing everything he can to avoid running into people, since he is not actually physically present. Had he accidentally bumped into someone, would they have walked right through him? We never get an answer, as he manages to successfully avoid contact.

Kate is the only person who ever speaks to or interacts with Tom

While other characters like Santa and Kate’s friends know that Tom exists, none of them ever meet him in person. While that’s not particularly striking at first because he “works nights” and shows up unannounced, he does enter the Christmas shop — it just only happens in the scenes when Santa is not there. It’s only when she’s alone that he finds her.

Nobody at the homeless shelter recognizes Tom’s name

When Kate goes to find Tom at the homeless shelter, nobody has heard of him. While it’s believable that the volunteers during the evenings wouldn’t know the overnight workers, it is extremely unlikely that none of the patrons — who are pretty much always around, as Kate comes to know them well as she continues volunteering — would have met him. (Unless he has been dead for a year, of course. In that case, it’s quite plausible that they wouldn’t know him.)

Kate always finds him when he’s on his bike

Tom is almost always on his bike when Kate finds him. Not every single time, but quite frequently. After learning the twist, this makes perfect sense. He was on his bike when he died a year ago, making it reasonable that her conjuring of him often places him in the last position he assumed when he was alive.

Tom doesn’t wear a helmet

Tom never wears a helmet while riding his bike. This isn’t remarkable at first — a suave 20-something in London might forego protective gear — but in the flashback to his bike accident, he is wearing one. He isn’t wearing a helmet now, with Kate, because he’s already dead. He doesn’t need to stay safe on the road.

Tom’s “look up” quote

Tom always tells Kate to “look up” and see the wonders that London has to offer. While teaching Kate to pay attention to the beauty that surrounds her (and focus less on the negatives), he also may be subtly teaching her to look up to the sky to find him in heaven.

We never find out anything about Tom’s life

Kate tells Tom pretty much everything about her own life, but he never reveals anything about his family, his job or where he lives. When he brings Kate home to his apartment one night, it is freakishly neat, and looks as though nobody currently lives in it. He doesn’t explain why it’s so clean. (Kate later learns that’s because it’s currently on the market, as its owner, Tom, has died.)

Tom is the only character we see Kate talk to about her heart transplant

At “his” apartment, Kate tells Tom (and the viewer) about her mysterious illness. Last Christmas, she had a heart transplant, and she hasn’t felt like herself since. Tom touches the scar on her chest, and she tells him that being with him makes her feel whole again. He doesn’t want to be intimate with her — the reason for which is never really explained — but they do end up kissing.

Tom doesn’t eat or sleep

When Kate wakes up in Tom’s apartment, she is happier than ever after making out with Tom. But he is nowhere to be found. In fact, when she fell asleep the night before, he didn’t lay in bed with her, but put her to sleep alone, in a small bed. So it seems as though he didn’t sleep that night, and disappeared right as she felt “whole” again. Additionally, Tom never eats during the movie, though other characters are seen eating quite frequently. Before their romantic ice skating scene, Kate is eating street food on a bench, while Tom eats nothing.

But what about those plot holes?

Last Christmas
Jonathan Prime—Universal Pictures

While most of the strange aspects of Tom’s personality are easily explained once the twist is revealed, a few things never quite add up.

Tom had never heard of Frozen

When Kate says she’s auditioning for a role in Frozen on Ice, he says he’s never heard of the now iconic Disney animated musical. That might make sense, if the movie hadn’t come out in 2013. He had nearly two full years to see the movie (or at least hear that it existed) before he died. Perhaps he was merely not keeping up with the Mouse House, but “Let It Go” was pretty much unavoidable for quite some time after that movie’s release.

How do they kiss?

Nobody is complaining about a Henry Golding-Emilia Clarke smooching scene, but it does beg the question: If Tom can’t be intimate with Kate, and he can’t even run into people on the street, why can he make out with her? A good holiday rom-com may have felt incomplete without it, but we’re still scratching our heads.

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Write to Rachel E. Greenspan at rachel.greenspan@time.com