It’s 1985, Christmas Eve and we’re on board the 15:05 from St. Pancras to Nottingham with Tony Towers, Michael Sheen (“Slaughterhouse Rulez”, “Passengers”), and his fiancée Sue Taylor, Nathalie Emmanuel (“Fast & Furious 9”, “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (TV)”).
Tony, with gloriously large and long, flowing blonde hair, is a nightclub owner, going home for Christmas with Sue, who is about to meet Tony’s brother and wife for the first time.
On gets Roger Towers, Cary Elwes (“Stranger Things (TV)”, “The Princess Bride”), Tony’s brother, and his wife Paula, Katherine Kelly (“Liar (TV)”, “Dirty God”). Roger, who used to work closely with Tony, now sells headphones for Saisho, the Dixons brand from the eighties.
Tony tells Roger he’s going to open six new nightclubs, things are going brilliantly without him. Things get a bit fraught between the quartet and Tony leaves to grab the champagne he had promised the carriage when he got on.
When he moves into the next carriage however, he’s catapulted into 1995 and he’s a drunkard, wearing ripped clothes. Some girls on the train recognise him, he’s obviously a well known drunk on this train. He realises that his plan to open all these clubs ends in disaster.
He goes back to the previous carriage and decides he’ll reduce the clubs to one, when he moves forward again it seems to have worked. He bumps into Auntie Vic, Phyllis Logan (“Downton Abbey (TV)”, “The Good Karma Hospital (TV)”), and learns the he’s divorced, both clubs have burnt to the ground and he’s being chased for money, probably from the person he paid to burn them.
He realises that if he goes forward on the train to go forward in time, he needs to go back down the carriage. In order to make the clubs work he knows he needs his brother so goes back and offers him 50/50. He’s done it. Until he goes forward in time to see his brother has screwed him over, taken everything.
Tony continues back in time, undoing everything he thinks he’s done wrong in his life, trying to make it alright. But the more he does, the less he can undo and the more of a mess he’s making, mainly of Roger’s life.
It’s not until he moves so forward in time that he meets Sue again, though not his wife, they don’t know each other this time. She provides some words of wisdom, something he can take on board and he realises what he must do.
He goes so far back, things change to black and white and we are treated to a change of tone as the movie takes the form of an old-fashioned movie. It’s all Cary Grant-esq, whistling steam trains, fast-cuts and panicked faces.
In the end, we go so far forward as to meet an old Tony, alone, in a future version of the train. As the train enters the last station he gets off and as families meet, he’s left alone, until someone turns up to greet him.
Last Train To Christmas was written and directed by Julian Kemp (“The Legend of Dick and Dom (TV)”, “My Last Five Girlfriends”) and is a lot of fun. It’s obviously a riff on A Christmas Carol, minus the ghosts, instead Tony must make and undo his own mistakes.
The star of the show, which is a good thing given he’s the main man, is Michael Sheen. It’s not just the copious amounts of makeup as he moves between time, it’s the emotions Sheen gives us as he tries desperately to first, make his own life better and second, realise this isn’t what it’s all about. Elwes meanwhile, has tremendous fun in massive wigs and big glasses, going from eighties family man to rehab rock star.
Last Train To Christmas is available on Sky from the 18th December 2021.
18th December 2021
THE QUICK SELL
Meet Tony Towers (Michael Sheen) as he embarks on a journey within a journey on board the 15:05 to Nottingham, returning home to Christmas, that spans decades.