Very rarely does a film come along that effortlessly blends obvious gooey cheesiness, ridiculous comedy, and copious amounts of sentimentality into one delightful cocktail. For me, that film is Love Actually. The perfect guilty pleasure and anytime watch. The movie may not be the smartest, and its political correctness is debatable. But this film is meant not to be nitpicked but just comfortably and slightly mindlessly enjoyed. This is a film you can watch when you’re feeling low and looking for positivity, but it’s also one you can watch at the zenith of your happiness. The end results in both situations will be the same. You will become happier (even happier in the second case), you will laugh, and you also may cry.
The movie looks at eight slightly intertwined love stories set during the fun and maddening time of Christmas. The film features all sorts of humour: slapstick, clever, fuzzy, disgusting, melodramatic, as well as the often cheeky and enjoyable British humour. The plethora of vastly different scenes are enjoyable as the narrative jumps from sad to jovial to often absurd in a matter of minutes. This keeps the audience engaged and in check with all the stories. The fragments, while short, are easy to follow and immensely interesting.
The talent on display is ridiculously good and almost all the actors do justice to their wildly divergent roles. The performances are comical, sweet, and even overly dramatic. All the performances however share one common link: they all are fascinating.
Hugh Grant, perennial lover boy and frequent collaborator of writer and director Richard Curtis, is at his charming best here. He plays the overly sensitive, unlikely, slightly sexist but ultimately well-intentioned British Prime Minister. Liam Neeson is astonishingly sweet as a recent widower who is helping his ten-year-old son through the trials of love while dealing with his loss. His role will be a welcome change to audiences who identify Neeson as a bona fide action hero. Thomas Brodie Sangster (of Game of Thrones fame) plays his young son remarkably well with deft nuances and a number of cute and adorable moments. Bill Nighy is exceptional and extremely funny as an ageing pop star desperately trying to hold on to his fame. His role and acting are brilliantly bizarre and oddly endearing, arguably giving the best performance of the film.
Colin Firth is sweet and hopeful as a dejected writer trying to communicate with a Portuguese housekeeper played convincingly by Lucia Moniz. Their story is pleasant and amusing. It has an element of authenticity despite the obvious “cheesiness” on display. The story featuring Keira Knightley, Andrew Lincoln and Chiwetel Ejiofor while acted ably will definitely divide opinion. Its absurdity is obvious when looked at closely, however, it’s pleasing and even oddly romantic when looked at from a wide lens.
Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman both impress playing a married couple falling out of love with each other. Rickman is expectedly superb as a cold and very matter-of-fact man and husband. While their story is realistic and interesting it is often boring and dispiriting. However, Rowan Atkinson makes a spectacularly hilarious cameo in their story echoing his Mr. Bean sensibilities. Martin Freeman and Joanna Page play two adult-film stars. Their story is often the most ridiculous, yet strangely delightful and not vulgar despite the subject matter. Finally, Kris Marshal plays a fairly standard but laughable character who is desperately trying to woo women. This segment is funny and a welcome distraction from other slightly more serious storylines.
This film differs from others in the same genre as it never tries to pretend or hide its true intentions. It’s a movie for romantics by romantics. Other popular “rom-coms” like When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, or Bridget Jones’s Diary, while exuberant in many ways are still bound by reality. Love Actually, on the other hand, completely embraces its idealistic world. It doesn’t understand the term grounded because it’s never left its magical castle in the sky.
One way to describe this movie would be to imagine consuming a huge melting pot of various kinds of cheeses accompanied by copious amounts of warm and comforting hot chocolate. Watching the film is truly a cathartic experience. Yes, the film is clichéd and often overly convenient. However, the sheer happiness it injects negates these faults. It also has the ability to turn the most prudish realists into goofballs. The film is adorable, cute, and loving in equal parts with a hint of realistic despair that comes with love. As predictable as it sounds, no matter what, you’re going to have a smile on your face once you finish the film. It is the quintessential and perfect guilty pleasure.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.