The cure for cynicism and THE perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit. This is interconnecting stories about different types of love, all occurring in Great Britain during the weeks leading up to Christmas. In my household, this is a mandatory Christmas tradition; the last thing I do before I go to bed on Christmas Eve is curl up on the couch with my beautiful fiancé (next time we watch this, she will be my wife) and let this film fill me with the holiday spirit. At risk of sounding like a big softie, what better emotion is there to get ready for Christmas than love? Its tone is pitch perfect for the season and the very definition of appropriate.
On paper, you can see how this may run afoul, simply by running the risk of being too sugary sweet. While I do watch this to feel good, I think that this sidesteps the aforementioned potential problem by keeping a foot in reality; not every one of these stories has a storybook ending. Also, only a couple of these stories would be strong enough to stand on their own, but this movie uses strength in numbers, and they all complement each other very well. You never get sick of any one story, and whenever it cuts back to the previous situation, it snaps your attention right back to what’s important. You would think that you may not be able to keep up with all of the different running story lines, but that’s never the case; all of the stories get memorable very quickly, and it draws you in.
If you can think of a critically acclaimed British actor, s/he is probably featured here. You’ve got Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Martin Freeman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightly, Hugh Grant, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman and Rowan Atkinson. To say that this thing is star-studded would be putting it lightly. If I had to pick, I would say the strongest plot line here is Colin Firth’s. He plays a character that falls for a beautiful woman who does not speak the same language as him. It has the best rise, fall and resolution, and is the most emotionally charged.
The hopeless romantic in me loves this movie, and will forever love this (have I said “love” enough this review?). It’s as touching and can be; this is one of few movies out there able to get man-tears out of me, and it’s probably not over something that you would guess. It’s so simple, and it’s completely unavoidable, but just seeing non-actors in the airport hugging each other over the Beach Boys “God Only Knows” just slays me… I’m starting to get a little misty-eyed just typing this. For my money, you can’t get a better straight romantic comedy than Love Actually.
Love Actually (2003) *****
– Critic for Hire