‘I Was Determined Not To Cry At This Year’s John Lewis Advert – But Then I Wept Through The Whole Thing’

This year's John Lewis advert has landed and it's a weepy tribute to Elton John's mum (yes, really). Hattie Crisell gets a sneak preview...

John Lewis Christmas advert 2018 Elton John

by Hattie Crisell |

I refuse to cry at the John Lewis Christmas ad. This was the thought firmly lodged in my mind a few days ago as I checked into an early morning, closely guarded screening with a handful of other press. I see you and your cunning annual attempts to pull at my heartstrings, John Lewis, and I will not let you get the better of me.

Of course, despite a lot of furious blinking, I wept through the whole thing. Then I quickly composed myself, only to fall apart all over again the second time they played it. The Boy and The Piano, as this year’s offering is dubbed, starts with Elton John at his home at Christmas, sitting down at the piano to play Your Song. As the song unfolds, we travel back in time: Elton performing on various stages over the years; singing for a stadium and on his tour plane in the 1970s; entertaining his friends around a pub piano in the 1960s.

The point at which my lip started to wobble was when we see Elton as a little boy – or Reginald Dwight, to give him his original name – playing at a school concert, his mother looking on proudly from the audience. Then we see him as a teeny boy running down the stairs on Christmas morning; his mum, her eyes brimming with excited emotion, helps him tear the wrapping paper off an upright piano, and he gazes at it in wonder. Some gifts are more than just a gift, says the tagline. At least I think that’s what it said, because I had something in my eye.

How do they do it? This script was one of 300 submitted for this year’s ad, and it equals the emotional impact of previous years (in fact to me, it’s all the better for being a little less cheesy). Elton John’s music may or may not be your jam, but few of us can dwell on the relationship between parents and small children without finding something poignant and relatable there. The emotional impact is ramped up further by the knowledge that Elton’s mother really did nurture his interest in music, bringing home Elvis Presley records and encouraging him to play the piano from the age of three.

The fact that they also had an eight-year falling-out towards the end of her life, and that she passed away last year makes it somehow more moving. The day after her death, he dedicated a performance of Your Song to her at a concert in Hamburg. "Well, this next song I wrote at her house or her apartment,” he told the audience. "So this is the song I want to dedicate to her. And it's taken me from nowhere to somewhere. So thank you, Mum." And, oh dear, I’m welling up again.

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