Review: Love Actually (2003)

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Whether they want to admit it or not, most people have a go-to Christmas movie, whether it’s the charming Will Ferrell comedy , Elf, or the timeless classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. For me, my Christmas movie of choice is the 2003 classic by Richard Curtis, Love Actually.

Poster for the 2003 Christmas movie 'Love Actually'.

Taking place during the lead up to Christmas, and set against the backdrop of aging rock star, Billy Mack (Bill Nighy), his long-suffering manager, Joe (Gregor Fisher) , and their cheesy festive cover of ‘Love Is All Around’, Love Actually features seven interconnected stories that look at love in its many different forms.

Daniel (Liam Neeson) is in mourning, coming to terms with the loss of his wife and the responsibility of being a single father to his step-son, Sam (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) who himself is feeling the “total agony of true love”.

Having caught his girlfriend with his brother, Jamie (Colin Firth) retreats to rural France to continue writing his book, he soon discovers that love cannot be constrained by something as trivial as a language barrier.

Sarah’s (Laura Linney) story explores the love of family and the heartbreak of missed chances, Colin (Kris Marshall) shows us that if you can’t find love maybe you’re just looking in the wrong place, or continent.

John (Martin Freeman) and Just Judy (Joanna Page), Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) and David (Hugh Grant) shows us that, whether you are a body double in a movie or the Prime Minister, workplace romances can work.

The somewhat voyeuristic and slightly creepy triangle featuring Juliet (Kiera Knightly), her new husband Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his best friend, Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is probably, for me, the weakest of all the stories, especially when you compare it to the depth and emotion of the film’s other triangle featuring Karen (Emma Thompson), Harry (Alan Rickman) and Mia (Heike Makatsch).

One of the main reasons why this film has managed to cement its status as a Christmas classic is its realistic, albeit somewhat romanticised, look at love. It’s not the case that every story plays out nicely to a happy ending; there is betrayal, fragility and heartbreak. If you are anything like me, this film will have you laughing one minute, dancing the next then wiping away both happy and sad tears.

As much as I love this film, if I’m perfectly honest, I’m not sure how much longevity is left in it. Granted, it will always hold a place in many hearts but it may be hard pressed to find a new audience. I fear that as time goes on it will continue to fall foul of people’s judgement, in fact it’s already begun (check this out).

Even for me, this year’s viewing was somewhat tainted. The constant fat jokes were uncomfortable to hear and watch, especially whilst I’m sitting in my pants stuffing my face with Christmas chocolates, Mia’s behaviour was sexual harassment without any consequences and there was a distinct lack of diversity amongst the predominantly white, straight sex couples.

All that being said, this film still makes me happy (probably because I am a straight, white woman with a fondness for cheesy and cliched romantic comedies) and will continue to be a staple viewing at Christmas for many more years to come.

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