Review: Love Actually (2003)

Back in March, I reviewed the odd 2006 film Once. Once was a one of a kind relationship movie, hard to describe, but easy to enjoy. If it had a defect it was that it felt too real. It was a film full of non-actors acting like non-actors. Filming what feels like real life rarely works in the cinema. At times, Once came perilously close to feeling like a home movie. Yet somehow, it worked.

Love Actually feels at times too much like a three ring circus to work. There is no central plot, just a central theme: in our crazy world, deep, passionate, engaging and meaningful love is everywhere. However, it is so commonplace that we mostly tune it out. It both begins and concludes in London’s Heathrow Airport around the holiday season. Heathrow is where a chain of interlocking multiple love stories intersect at one particular time and place. Each love story is unique and most are engaging.

Alan Rickman plays Harry, who is as close as the movie comes to having a central character. He is a magazine owner and is dutifully but not excitedly married to Karen (Emma Thompson). He is tempted to stray because his secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch) is younger, much shapelier and is doing everything short of a Monica Lewinski act to show his interest in him. His wife just happens to be the sister to the new British Prime Minister David (Hugh Grant). Settling in to his Downing Street digs, the strangely unmarried David finds himself attracted to his caterer Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), and gets protective after the visiting President of the United States (played by Billy Bob Thorton) tries to stick his tongue down her throat. Natalie lives in a part of London that she warns the Prime Minister is “a bit dodgy”.

Karen is also a good friend of Daniel (Liam Neeson), who is just beginning to mourn his wife’s death from cancer. Daniel is too busy grieving to ponder another love life for himself. Rather than being in mourning his ten-year-old stepson find himself instead desperately in love with an American classmate. They have not even reached puberty. How could it be love? Yet the boy’s feelings are sincere. She is close to departing his life forever to return to America. Yet she does not even know he exists. Karen is also friends with Jamie, whose wife humiliated him by leaving him for his brother. Jamie finds it necessary to go to France to escape and try to work on his novel. While there, he is fussed over by Aurelia, a Portuguese housekeeper. She cannot speak a word of English. They soon find that they love each other, but they have no way to put it into words.

Also in Harry’s office is Sarah (Laura Linney) who for years has had a mutual crush on Karl (Rodrigo Santoro). Neither found the courage to express their feelings until they finally dance at their company Christmas Party. Unfortunately, Sarah is also the sole guardian of her psychotic brother, who lives in an institution, periodically tries to hurt people, and who calls her on her cell phone any hour of the day or night to talk to her. She lets him control her life and in the process finds that the dutiful love she feels for her brother means she cannot have the romantic love she craves.

There is also Juliette (Keira Knightley) who just married Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor). However, Peter’s best friend Mark (Andrew Lincoln) desperately loves her, but cannot express it, so he pretends to dislike her. In addition there is Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) a late-50s something mostly ex-pop star who sells his soul to remake one of his hits to give it a holiday theme, and loathes himself for it. Billy looks wasted, and comes across as spectacularly crass and boorish. This may be because all these years he has harbored feelings for his “fat manager” Joe (Gregor Fisher) rather than the scores of women he has bedded. Then there is Colin (Kris Marshall), the unlucky young male virgin who strikes out with all the women in Great Britain, and makes a desperate trip t

Editors note: the text for the rest of this review seems to have gone down a black hole and cannot be recovered.