The rom-com, to quote the dictionary definition, is “a funny movie, play, or television program about a love story that ends happily”. Sounds simple enough, you may think. However, the rom-com has gone on to be one of the most successful and popular film types in modern history, and you would be hard pushed to find a film from the genre that is more sentimental, more ambitious and more romantic than the 2003 hit Love Actually.
The Working Title production is jam-packed with stars, predominately British, with some having appeared in films under the same banner and the influence of director Richard Curtis before, most notably Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. Following the lives of a variety of different characters that all link to each other somehow, it succeeds at showing the beauty of love from many different angles. Playing on the slightly soppy yet accurate tagline that ‘love [actually] is all around’, the film aims to portray the different examples of the emotion, whether it be love within a relationship, platonic love or love towards a family member.
The performances are spot on, with well-established performers such as Grant, Firth and Bill Nighy, mixing with younger stars such as Joanna Page and Keira Knightley, and even those destined for much bigger things in the shape of Martin Freeman. Aside from some wonderful performances, it is the feel ofLove Actually and the message it delivers that is the real drawing point. It typifies an upbeat outlook on society and the love from one person to another. But most importantly, it epitomises the typical British Christmas.
It takes place in the five weeks leading up to Christmas, and in many ways this provides an extra element of sentimentality handmade to incorporate moments from the holiday period into the romantic narrative. The countdown also dictates its pace, which is expertly calculated by Curtis, who makes his directorial debut here. Depending on the characters, it glides and stutters towards a Christmas finale, with the typical rom-com hurdles providing a halt in a certain character’s plans, just when you thought it was looking rosy.
But even in the most sentimental moments, Curtis isn’t afraid to turn Love Actually into the lightest of comedies. Hugh Grant’s character, the Prime Minister, singing Christmas carols with his bodyguard is a delight and one of the funniest scenes in the film. In fact, Grant provides many of the film’s strong comedic moments, with his flamboyant dancing to ‘Jump’ by The Pointer Sisters providing a physical release from the film’s layered structure.
However, it is the expressions of love that really drive the film on, and the fact it is Christmas just makes it that extra bit special. Whether it is the sweet story of Colin Firth’s character and his Portuguese housekeeper, Liam Neeson’s Daniel showing affection for his stepson, or the somewhat overlooked, tender moment between Kiera Knightley’s character Juliet and her husband’s best friend Mark (Andrew Lincoln), this film has something for everyone. This is the type of film that can be watched with anyone, whether it be your girlfriend, your family, or on your own, dreaming of a festive romance. So this Christmas, instead of worrying about everything else, I hope you managed to put on this classic and help share the love.