Film A Week 51: Christmas Special- Love Actually (2003) With Friendly Guests

My favorite holiday of all time is finally upon us. It’s Christmas and the warmth of the season is wrapping us all together be it with family, a close friend or even a significant other. When I think of Christmas time, I think of the joy that is spread and the look on the faces of family members gathering around to take time out of their lives to reconnect, the couples that hold hands in winter coats as they walked around the winter wonderland and the friends that get together to share gifts and swap new stories with introductions to others.

This concept can be explained as the simple notion and emotion known as love. Everyone has a different ideas and perspective on what exactly it is. Luckily since it is Christmas, I have gathered a couple of friends to step in and help better explain this while also taking a look at the modern Christmas classic, Love Actually as we try to discover what is love actually?

Week51

“I think his name was Robert Sternberg (who said it), but I agree with his definition. He calls it the “triangular theory of love,” so each point of the triangle represents a different “component” of love. And they are….intimacy, passion, and commitment.” – Clarisse Casino Ilagan

Directed and written by Richard Curtis, Love Actually gave a unique perspective of the romance concept by telling an anthological story focusing on many unique romances throughout Christmas time in England, somewhat like the theory Clarisse believes, but goes a bit beyond a mere theory. The concept was relatively perfect till Garry Marshall fucked it all up with Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, but that is neither here nor there. This review is going to take a look at each story individually in order to help get the points across better (and not to confuse readers) on each subject at hand, so for those wanting to see the film, this will help better explain.

Billy Mack & Joe

“Some of the best love comes from family in almost all cases. Our immediate family member are the ones who know us best. They watch us grow and still accept us no matter how much we change. When our family doesn’t accept us, we find friends who become our family.”
– Lindsey Maeda

Being an old school rocker without anyone to call family must be upsetting, unless you are the former heroin addict Billy Mack, played deviously by personal favorite actor Bill Nighy, forced to re-record the song “Love is All Around Me” as “Christmas is All Around Me” in order to make a quick buck and get the comeback he deserves. The only lot he has around to support him is “fat manager” Joe (his words, not mine), played by George Fisher. As Billy Mack goes on television and the radio parading his “festering turd of a record” in order to be the Christmas Number One single, the British equivalent of being the number one song of the year in the States, Billy is up to his old antics of being a douche, but being hilarious at the same time. As the record eventually gets the number one, Billy Mack gets invited to Elton John’s Christmas party only to realize that Joe is the bloody love of his life.

Billy finally realizes he loves his friend for giving him years of support as Joe feels honored to be an integral part of his career. Of course, as one would celebrate such a moment, they get pissed and watch porn. As Lindsey above said, friends become a family when family is no longer accepting of our path. With Mack, I always felt he never got real time with his family as the sad lonely individual, but Joe stepped up to the plate to help ease the pain.

Juliet, Peter & Mark

“Love is an emotion that I feel and show for people who have a certain level of closeness. It means mutual respect, empathy, and caring.”
– Alex Aguayo

Sometimes though Alex, that form of love is hard to get across to someone on that level and you can let them slip away in a single moment. Take Mark, played by Andrew Lincoln, for example and his admiration for the wife of his friend Peter, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, named Juliet, played by Keira Knightley. Mark at the wedding prepares a giant musical performance of “All You Need is Love” to the surprise of Peter and Juliet. Mark has a tendency to videotape everything, so when Juliet comes over to see Mark’s video of the wedding, she is in shock to see that Mark practically took the time to record a majority of her moments to see Mark as unrequited love for her. Obviously, Mark never quite warmed up to her and it causing him to leave in embarassment for not admitting his feelings soon.

“Love is beautiful and it’s this thing I let get away from me that I’ll probably never get again.”- Amanda Mayberry

Peter finally decides to make the hard decision to move on, but before hand, he harnesses his inner Bob Dylan to tell Juliet in silence how much he cares for her. Like Amanda, he knows that he may never get to experience this wonderful feeling again

Personally, I’ve been in Mark’s position before and it is not fun at all, but to anyone in that situation, it is always difficult to get the proper time and words out to express affection. When we feel that we are putting enough effort as we would like, we have to admit it is time to give up.

Harry, Karen & Mia

“Love is not perfect, because let’s face it the people who are in love aren’t. Love is about putting yourself in a vulnerable position, well aware that someone might take a Jackhammer to your relationship. It’s about trust in someone else and trust in yourself.”- Erik Luna

Possibly the most realistic tales in terms of love comes in the form of the story involving Harry, played by Alan Rickman, Karen, played by Emma Thompson, and the person coming in to step on the marriage Mia, played by Heike Makatsch, playing quite close to what Erik is talking about. Harry is tempted by Mia’s intentions as she is the secretary and intends to play her cliche role of entitlement to pumping the boss. As Harry embarks on his foolish mind and desires, Karen starts to notice a disconnect between herself and Harry, knowing that Mia is trying to lure Harry. Harry unfortunately falls into one of Mia’s trap and buys her an expensive necklace in an admittedly funny appearance by Rowan Atkinson.

Karen believes the gift is for her, but Mia gets it instead. Karen ends up with a CD of her favorite artist Joni Mitchell that leads Karen to question the fallacy of her relationship at hand in silence in arguably the best scene in the entire film.

“Love is even when they’re not in their best mood, when you both get into a argument over something like money or in-laws, they drive you crazy with their annoying habits, or they say the wrong things, but at the end of the day you can’t imagine them being anyone else.”
– Jade Inglada

Karen confronts Harry about it and Harry admits he was a fool to do so, but in the end, she still admires his honesty and his efforts much like Jade points out. My friend Ilse describes this love in the best way I could think of.

“Love is a roller coaster experience because a real relationship that is ‘love’ is not a real relationship. It is finding one person’s flaws and making them beautiful in one’s eyes. It’s a beautiful feeling that hurts.”- Ilse Torres

Jamie & Aurelia

“Love is sacred. It is very hard to find. It’s being with someone you not only show affection with, but can be your complete self with. It’s being able to reveal things about yourself that you wouldn’t share with anyone else.”- Maria Rodarte

After a painful and awkward reveal that his girlfriend is sleeping with his brother, author Jamie, played by Colin Firth, heads to a French cottage in order to write his latest murder mystery novel. While there, he is greeted by his new housekeeper Aurelia, played by Lucia Moniz, who like Jamie, cannot speak a lick of French nor English for that matter and only speak Portaguese. Jamie and Aurelia have a very hard relationship with the whole language barrier being a major issue, especially when Jaime loses half his novel in the water with Aurelia trying to figure out what he is writing. Jaime grows affection for her as they both somehow discover and reveal to each other their likes and dislikes despite not sharing the same language. After leaving France, Jamie ends up learning the language in order to race back on Christmas Eve and reveal his true love for her.

Sure, it began a little awkward, but these two manage to define each other and their faults. It’s a beautiful moment between the two and a lesson in love being truly limitless as they break the tension and open more to each as Maria stated.

David & Natalie

“Love is when you can’t escape one person. You think of that person all the time, waiting for the moment when you two will be with each other. The butterflies on your stomach get to you, that sometimes, you feel like throwing up for excitement. When you’re close to them, you feel different.”- Rosaura Montes

Even the Prime Minister is powerless under the weight of love as David, played by the always charming Hugh Grant, falls a bit head over heel for a member of his cabinet at 10 Downing Street named Natalie, played by Martine McCutcheon. She is the newest member on staff and captures his intention as he befuddles his way to her heart until President of the United States, played by Billy Bob Thornton, comes to visit and starts to flirt with her as U.S. President are wont to do. David sees this as an opportunity to basically put America rightfully in its place and become one hell of a prime minister.

David sings the praises of his new found victory by dancing to the Pointer Sisters’ “Jump,” but in the wake of what happened, sends Natalie off to another job. David soon finds a Christmas card from Natalie giving a apology for what happened and David heads out to the dodgy end of town in order to get her back on Christmas Eve, even if it means meeting her whole family.

From here, David and her are off to the school’s Christmas Eve pageant to embrace in a kiss, but more on that later. Love seems to come from unlikely places such as the work place for David and Natalie as Rosuara above said that they could not escape one another, but even then, work place romances do not always end up in the way we think they should be.

Sarah, Karl & Michael

“Love is just being comfortable around someone and showing affection to anyone such as your significant other, friends, family, etc.”
– Marissa Roxanne Brown

Yet, with that said Marissa, sometimes love of another can interfere with others, but the lesson to accept negative aspects of being comfortable is a hard one to learn. Sarah, played by Laura Linney, is madly in love with Karl, played by Rodrigo Santoro, and is ready to take the next step, but her mentally unstable brother constantly interrupts any chance she gets. Then comes the night she has waited for while at Mark’s art gallery party when her and Karl finally get close to each other and even attempt to engage in sex.

Her brother Michael calls during the beginning of the act, causing Karl to leave in dismay and effectively end any chance of it happening. Sarah learns the lesson that the comfortably of love and unconditional love is not all that it seems, but even then, the love for her brother shines through and prevails.

Daniel, Sam, Joanna & Carol

“Love is…timeless. Special and rare. Cherish it.”- Anika Wilmore

Daniel, played by Liam Nesson, is dealing with the grief of his wife’s death and is left to take care of Sam, played by Thomas Sangster, who has been in his room and not wanting to get out of it. Daniel talks to Karen about his attitude and she suggest to take him out and figure out if the pain of his mom’s death has him feeling down. As they hang out by the Millennium Bridge, Daniel discovers that Sam is not in total sadness his mom, but rather the fact that he is in the total agony of love with a girl named Joanna, played by Olivia Olson, who happens to have the same named as his mom.

Sam finds that Joanna will be singing in the school Christmas Eve pageant and takes up the drum in order to play alongside her as she is “the one” for him. Sam learns that Joanna will be leaving back to America soon and wants to do everything in his power in order to be with her. It all comes to a head at the pageant as Joanna sings the Mariah Carey classic “All I Want for Christmas.”

 
SIDENOTE: That’s Marceline the Vampire Queen from Adventure Time singing.

After the performance and David and Natalie steal Joanna’s thunder with a kiss for all to see, Sam is down on his luck for not making a proper impression on her. Daniel sees this and decides to send him off to the airport in order for him to catch her and win her over. What follows is one hell of a cheery and adorable sequence of young love.

Sam finally gets the girl and even Daniel manages to get a woman for himself in the form of Carol, played by Claudia Schiffer, who Daniel mentioned in passing that he would want a woman like Claudia Schiffer. It’s a tale of love, like Anika said, is truly timeless and can come at any age.

Colin, Tony & the American Girls

“Love is stupid.”- Freddy Andrew Monares

You are not wrong on that front, Freddy, as love does have its fair share of stupidity as with Colin Frissel, played by Kris Marshall, has no luck with English woman and telling his friend Tony, played by Abdul Salis, he has grown too used to the stuck up ways of British women and must go to America to become “Colin, God of Sex.”

Colin believes he can get by on being British and nothing more with Tony skeptical on his decision to head stateside and calls him an idiot. Colin, determined to continue on with his mission, books it to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and suddenly his theory is proven correct by wooing and bedding three American girls named Jeannie, Carol-Anne and Stacey, played by January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert and Ivana Milicevic respectively.

Stupidity wins this round, as does meaningless sex, but Colin ends up a much happier man for his idiocy.

John & Judy

“Love is carrying that unexplainable happiness for that special person. Once you love someone and you are able to talk to them as if they were your diary, you found that person.”- Dulce Carillo Compean

The simplest story is also one the makes the largest impact as Dulce said talking to them can lead to finding someone. John, played by Martin Freeman, meets Judy, played by Joanna Page, while being body doubles for sex scenes on feature films as the two develop an adorable and somehow comfortable ‘meet cute’ story. Having to see the one you have a crush on every day naked on the job could lead to awkwardness, but these two prevail in taking it in stride.

“Love is waking up every morning thinking of that special someone.”- Ruben Perez

Both are awkward individuals, but do eventually go out with John trying to steal a kiss, but back off. Judy, on the other hand, lays one on him by kissing him causing John to jump for joy at his new found romance.

It is the start of something new and us as the viewer see the start of what very well be a beautiful relationship.

One Month Later…

“Love means comfort, understanding and protection. By comfort, you’re absolutely comfortable to be yourself with this person and you can trust the person with expressing your every emotion. You can trust them to understand how to comfort you through your hard time. They undertstand who you are as a person and don’t judge or try to change you in any way. And protection, in every sense but most importantly, they hold you and you feel so safe, nothing in the world could hurt you.”- Angelique Enos

One month passes by and everyone is arriving at Heathrow Airport with our pal Billy having a successful comeback with Joe waiting to greet his pal. Juliet, Mark and Peter are there welcoming the arrival of Jamie and his new wife  Aurelia as the two now understand each other. David arrives as Natalie kisses him with press watching showing the single Prime Minister is now off the market. Karen is ready to greet back Harry, who has returned from a business trip and remain in love. Sam sees his new girlfriend Joanna arrive with Daniel moving on from Sam’s wife with Carol while Colin returns to greet Tony with Harriet, played by Shannon Elizabeth, and her sister Carla, played by Denis Richards, who is ready to take a chance on Tony. Tony also gets wind of John and Judy who are now engaged to be married. In the end, love rules all and prevails.

The film is fantastic by balancing all these stories and characters with sharp comedy, tight knit writing. Richard Curtis paints a portrait of love with remarkable and memorable moments that help explain in terms the love that is all around at Christmas time.

But the question remains, what is love actually?

As you see, we all have different answers to this simple yet complex question and we all have a concept of love. To me personally, love is this universal concept that cannot really be explained nor described, going beyond the stars and spreading around. Love is something me share with everyone from a simple best friend, a dysfunctional family and the one true person we love, but it is up to us ourselves to make the effort to show our love as they would so there. As the wizard Merlin in Disney’s take on The Sword in the Stone said, “You know lad, that love business is powerful thing” to which Arthur questions “Greater than gravity?” and Merlin simply replies with “I’d, uh…Yes, I’d say its the greatest force on Earth.”

An old wizard who can go into time and space to figure out every answer in the book could not even begin to describe it without seriously thinking about it, but he was right in his own way. Love is greater than gravity as it weighs us down and makes us grounded in the reality. Yet, I believe it is unconditional love that binds us all together for without love, we would be mindless beings wandering around. Even those who are single and without someone understand the concept of love because it is still held with family and friends. Love is boundless, limitless and infinite, so there is never going to be a right answer nor a wrong answer. Every answered listed in this review is our own answer and one we rest on to keep us going. If there is one thing to learn this Christmas is, to quote the film itself, love actually is all around.

Merry Christmas and have magnificent New Year’s as Film A Week comes to a close by going back to the genre that kicked off FAW with the end of the Cornetto (Blood & Ice Cream) Trilogy The World’s End to mark the conclusion of a year of film reviewing. Prepare for hilarity, returning jokes and a neat thank you this New Year’s Eve.

The Film A Week Finale
Week 52: The World’s End (2013)
New Year’s Eve, Tuesday December 31st

Now to leave you with the song that ends the film and is my favorite song of all time that encapsulates everything written, “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys.

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