“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… love actually is all around.” – The Prime Minister
By rights, I should hate Love Actually, and despite its Christmas setting should not have made it onto the favourite festive film list.
In fact, I swear it actively conspires against me.
- Firstly, it’s a romantic comedy. Surely the province of the simpering and squealing women-folk who dance in their pyjamas, eat ice-cream straight from the cartons, paint their nails and talk about boys? What self-respecting man would be faintly interested in this? We’re too busy with brandy, cigars and empire-building, thankyouverymuch.
- Secondly, it involves a horrendously convoluted series of relationships between improbably successful and good-looking people with beautiful London homes whose mortgages would be through the roof in real life, almost ALL of whom seem to find that special someone in the space of the busiest shopping weeks of Christmas. Why would I enjoy Richard Curtis rubbing my big-fat-failure of a face in it?
- Finally, in my honest opinion, it’s wholly responsible for myriad other piss-poor efforts of romantic comedies with sprawling, big-name ensemble casts. See She’s Just Not That Into You, Valantine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, then cry over the loss of Bradley Cooper’s hard-won man-points.
Suspend the disbelief and lay the lazy gender stereotypes aside, however, and you can see that, for every negative point you may want to look for, it’s got plenty of positives; it’s pretty stylish and well assembled for a start. It gleefully pokes fun at recognisably festive shite like nativity plays, crappy office parties and the Christmas number one. It’s got some truly talented cast members like Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman (who will be making another appearance in this list later…) and Keira Knightley (not AT ALL the real reason I like this film so much), and it has possibly my favourite stream-of-consciousness swearing outburst in the first fifteen minutes ever committed to film.
Finally, of course, it is so damn Christmassy that I just can’t NOT watch it over the festive season, and I feel that this kind of plucky, British-y rom-com in the vein of Four Weddings and About a Boy seems to be in its twilight years, to be replaced by big-budget sequels and ‘quirky’ faux-indie movies, and this is one heck of a tribute. What we have is a movie that is SO well-done that you can, actually, enjoy it for the festive fluff it acknowledges itself to be.