At least eight different, intertwining tales of love at Christmastime in London come together in Love Actually.
The different stories –
- Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) is an aging rock star looking to stage a comeback with a new Christmas album with the help of his manager, Joe (Gregor Fisher).
- Juliet (Keira Knightley) marries Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) but learns that Peter’s best friend, Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is in love with her.
- A writer, Jamie (Colin Firth) finds his girlfriend sleeping with his brother and travels to a remote French cottage where he falls in love with the Portuguese cleaning lady, Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz), who doesn’t speak English.
- Harry (Alan Rickman) finds himself attracted to his secretary, Mia (Heike Makatsch), and his wife, Karen (Emma Thompson) begins to suspect something when she finds a gift for her.
- David (Hugh Grant), the new Prime Minister, falls for Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), a member of his household staff.
- Daniel (Liam Neeson) and his stepson, Sam (Thomas Sangster), mourn the loss of their wife and mother. Sam has also fallen for his American classmate and Daniel decides to help him win her over.
- Sarah (Laura Linney) has had a crush on a coworker, Karl (Rodrigo Santoro), for years but their relationship is constantly interrupted by calls from her mentally ill brother.
- Unlucky in love in London, Colin (Kris Marshall) decides to travel to America to find a girl, or girls.
- John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) meet while filming as body doubles for various sex scenes.
Wow, do you have all that? It’s not nearly as confusing as it sounds as each of the stories is short and all of them overlap in some way. Characters crop up in different stories and the golden thread of the film is love. Love Actually is surprisingly one of the best romantic comedies I’ve ever seen. Love Actually is incredibly charming, honest, and funny and it’s a Christmas movie to boot. In fact, it’s the only Christmas movie I can think of that has nudity, so that doesn’t hurt.
There is a lot to keep track of in Love Actually and some of the story lines play out better than others, but the film rarely feels like it is trying to pull in too much. The only real disappointment comes if your favorite story lines don’t wrap up as fully as others. The cast is so varied that even if you have an aversion to an actor, they likely aren’t on screen long enough to get under your skin. When I was reviewing Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, I noted that Keira Knightley bothered me in that film, but here she is pleasant.
I had seen Love Actually a few years ago and vaguely remembered a few of the characters and their stories, but the film felt fresh to me. I could see moving Love Actually into regular Christmastime movie rotation, but it’s also complex enough to have it be “new” every few years. Regardless, I know it’s past Christmas but let Love Actually into your heart and onto your screen when the seasons rolls around again next year.
I give it 4 “to me, you are perfect…”s out of 5.
PS – I could not have written this review without the help of Wikipedia.