This is the 3rd 20th Anniversary film this week, brought up from VP’s archives.
- Richard Curtis
- Run Time
- 2 hours and 15 minutes
VP Content Ratings
- Sex & Nudity
- Star Rating
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
If a man offered for love
all the wealth of his house,
it would be utterly scorned.
Written and directed by Richard Curtis, who also wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love Actually has much to recommend it, despite a couple of storylines of questionable taste. The film is book-ended by scenes of arrivals and departures at London’s Heathrow Airport, as we hear a narrator state at the beginning: “General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. Seems to me that love is all around. The phone messages from the Twin Towers weren’t of hate, but of love!” Amen to that—and too much of what follows as we try to keep track of about a dozen characters, some beginning love affairs, one person ending one, and a few still looking. Well, not necessarily love affairs, but rather, in the case of a stepfather, ways of connecting with another human being on a deeper than usual level.
Liam Neeson is the stepfather, Daniel. He greatly misses his dead wife. Her young son by a former marriage (Thomas Sangster) is not only grieving, but also despairing over his inability to impress a girl at school. Time is short because she is an American exchange student due to return to the States during the Christmas break. (All the stories take place during the weeks prior to Christmas, and thus we can regard this as an Advent film, so filled with longing are its many characters.) Daniel takes the time to listen to his stepson and to honor his adolescent yearnings, rather than dismissing them as “puppy love.” How they help each other, bonding closely in the process, makes this the best of the many warm stories interwoven through the film.
Other stories include the freshly elected British Prime Minister (Hugh Grant), whose eye is immediately drawn to Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), a female aide, when he arrives to take up residence at 10 Downing Street. She is a lowly civil servant, a gofer bringing him his tea. To avoid temptation, the Prime Minister has her transferred out of the building, but he cannot get her out of his mind. Will they meet again? Harry (Alan Rickman), manager of a busy publishing office, has grown apart from his loving wife Karen (Emma Thompson) and is attracted to his temptress secretary, for whom he purchases an expensive necklace. When Karen discovers this during the gift unwrapping on Christmas Day, what will she do—and will Harry truly live up to his words, “What a fool I’ve been”? At that same office Sarah (Laura Linney) has told Harry of her desire to date fellow employee Karl (Rodrigo Santoro), but will the shy woman follow her boss’s advice and let her intended know of her feelings for him? Across the Channel in France Jamie (Colin Firth) hires Aurelia (Lucia Moniz), who speaks only Portuguese, to be his maid. As he is drawn closer to her, will they ever connect, especially after he returns to spend Christmas in England?
There are several other stories, one of them involving the possibility that a young woman might have married the wrong man. Also running through the film is the story of faded rock star: Bill Nighy (Billy Mack) shamelessly recording an old song he has rewritten as a Christmas song. Knowing that the song is “S—t,” he admits it all over the airways when he is interviewed, almost daring his listeners to go out and buy so that it will be a hit. He has lived a lonely life but finally finds love closer to home than he had expected—though not all Christians will applaud his discovery. And the two stories that I believe we can all agree spoil the film for families are these: Two naked stand-ins during the filming of a porno film find themselves drawn to each other over the weeks of filming. And a horny but loser in the dating game tells all his friends that he is going to some fabulous place like Wisconsin where his British accent is sure to lure girls into his lap. These two tales belong in some other film, robbing the film of what should have been a PG-13 rating, and thus of a large segment of its potential audience. You might want to wait until the film is released on video, so that you can fast forward through the segments involving. You will, however, want to catch the scene in which Billy Bob Thornton as the lecherous U.S. President, visiting and bullying the Prime Minister, is put in his place by the P.M. during a press conference. I’ll be interested to hear how this scene plays in Great Britain.
Whether you wait or see it now, Love Actually offers a good opportunity for discussion with a group of young audience, to whom the film is directed: 1) Although for Hollywood love usually means romantic love, what kinds of love do we see in the film? 2) Who are the lonely ones in the film? How does love for them mean connecting with another human being, and not just scoring sexually? How can this be seen as an Advent film? 3) When Karen discovers that the necklace present was intended for someone other than herself, what song do you hear on the soundtrack? How is the way that the singer once saw clouds, and love, and now regards them a good description of what Karen is feeling at the moment? What do you think will become of her relationship to her husband? 4) What does the airport arrival/departure gate setting at the beginning and ending of the film suggest about the lives of the many characters? Compare the narrator’s statement that “love is all-round” with 1 John 4:16.