My housemates and I were in the mood for something fun, happy and easy to watch. Richard Curtis’ 2003 romantic comedy Love Actually seemed like an obvious choice.
Love Actually features a massive ensemble cast with a number of narratives that all converge on each other. Set a few weeks before Christmas, Love Actually tells ten different love stories that are all mostly linked in one way or another. Firstly, Hugh Grant plays David, the recently elected Prime Minister, who begins to fall in love with a new junior member of his household staff Natalie, (Martine McCutcheon.) His sister Karen (Emma Thompson) is married to Harry (Alan Rickman) who slowly begins to be seduced by his secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch.)
A separate storyline focuses on newly weds Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who both think that Peter’s best friend and best man Mark (Andrew Lincoln) hate Juliet, when the opposite is the truth. Forced to attend their wedding by his girlfriend who drops out at the last minute is Jamie (Colin Firth) who after he finds out his girlfriend is cheating on him retreats to a secluded French cottage where he begins becoming attracted to his housekeeper Aurelia (Lucla Moniz.)
Another separate storyline sees Colin Frissell’s (Kris Marshall) blundering attempts to pick up British girls result in him travelling to America to use his “cute British accent” to sleep with American girls, whilst his best friend Tony (Abdul Sallis) desperately tries to convince him not to. Tony is a TV director, where he directs John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) who are both body doubles who whilst are perfectly comfortable with each other whilst filming sex scenes, are more awkward off-set.
A fourth narrative sees Daniel (Liam Neeson) a recent widower try to help his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) win his the heart of Joanna, his schoolgirl crush.
A fifth storyline focuses on Sarah (Laura Linney) and her boss Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) who despite always being attracted to each other, are unable to be together due to Sarah’s mentally ill brother.
The sixth storyline features Bill Nighy as ageing rockstar Billy Mack who despite making a terrible song is encouraged by his manager Joe (Gregor Fisher) to get the song to number one.
As is obvious by my summary, this film has a number of different narratives. However, the major strength of this film is that, for the most part, the narratives all work very well together. None of the storyline clash with each other or are overshadowed by the others. They all work effectively in their own right. As there are too many to talk about in detail, I’ll just pick some of the best ones.
The film works so effectively due to how it contrasts some of the funnier, happier narratives with some more touching, emotionally poignant ones. The simplicity and wonderful stupidity of Colin’s (Kris Marshall) plan to use his British accent to charm American girls contrasts well with how Harry’s (Alan Rickman) secretary Mia (Heike Makatasch) purposefully intends to break up his marriage with his wife Karen (Emma Thompson.) In one of the best moments of the film, Karen discovers a gold necklace that Harry has been hiding for her. Innocently assuming that it’s a Christmas present for her, she is very surprised to find that Harry has actually given her a Joni Mitchell CD. Emma Thompson is absolutely brilliant in this scene. In a very sad moment, she retires to her bedroom before completely breaking down upon realising that her husband could be cheating on her. She then gathers up her strength to put on a brave face for her children.
Another example of this contrast in emotions is the narrative involving Daniel (Liam Neeson) coping with the loss of his wife by helping his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) win his schoolgirl crush. This sweet storyline contrasts well with the more emotionally poignant narrative of Sarah (Laura Linney) who is unable to be with her boss Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) due to her mentally ill brother. This I felt was one of the more underrated, but one of the most powerful scenes in the film and it demonstrates another type of love: family love.
This is another strength of the film. It explores a lot of different types of love. Family love e.g between Karl and Sarah or between Harry, Karen and Mia, parental love between Daniel and Sam and also love between friends such as between Peter (Chiwetel Ajiofor) Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Mark (Andrew Lincoln.) This was another of the more emotionally poignant narratives. The conclusion where Mark holds up cue cards explaining his love for Juliet has become one of the most recognisable moments of the film, not only because of how Andrew Lincoln is now much more famous for killing zombies or shouting CARL in the Walking Dead. Seriously, it was so weird hearing Andrew Lincoln speak in his native English accent. But, I digress. The best part of this storyline was hearing Mark say as he walked away “that’s enough. That’s enough now,” signifying that he is finally ready to move on.
Rowan Actkinson is undoubtedly the star of the film. Despite having the least amount of screentime, he steals the film in his scene as sales assistant Rufus whose obsessive attention to giftwrapping a necklace that Harry wants to buy for Mia almost gets him caught by his wife Karen. This scene is hilarious and Rowan Actkinson is brilliant.
Whilst, for the most part, the narratives all work very well together, I do feel that some get overshadowed by others. My main example is Karl and Sarah’s narrative, which I had completely forgotten about until I had rewatched the film. I also think that some characters and narratives didn’t receive as much development and screentime as they did, such as John and Judy’s one. I would have liked to known more about these characters.
Whilst for the most part this film is hilarious and all of the storylines work well together, there is the odd occasion where one narrative is overshadowed by another. That notwithstanding the film’s balance between comedy and tragedy makes it a charming, witty and entertaining Christmas film that is guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.