Richard Curtis’s festive frolic proves that love actually is, as Hugh Grant proclaims, all around. A smart revival of the sentiment behind the now infamous song from Four Weddings and a Funeral (immortalised by Wet Wet Wet), the film cleverly combines the sappiness of the British chick flick genre with hugely empathetic and likeable characters. The fact the ‘Love is All Around’ is also parodied brilliantly by Bill Nighy’s Billy Mack, a failing rock god with a penchant for sticking his foot in it when he talks to the press, only intensifies the enjoyment provided by the film.
Love Actually’s simple premise entwines the lives of countless British thespians – some love, some lose, some cheat whilst others come to realise they, to use a rather crude colloquialism, ‘bat for the other team’. Although some of the characters fail to fully capture audience sympathy whilst the fates others seem to be overly cruel (we point here to what becomes of Sarah (Laura Linney)’s apparently secret lusting for her colleague Karl), amazingly none fade pointlessly into the background.
Stand out performances come from the always delightful Emma Thompson as wife to the equally enjoyable Alan Rickman who plays a boss whose eye is caught by one of his (rather forward) staff members, Qui-Gon himself Liam Neeson who, whilst having to cope with the loss of his wife is left to help cure his step-son (Thomas Sangster)’s lovesickness. Hugh Grant’s foppish Etonian charm, although apparently being the only role he can play, provides the film with a prime minister who has backbone, wit and likeability. Curtis sure has a eye for fiction. Other names include Colin Firth, Keira Knightly, Martin Freeman, Kris Marshall and Chiwetel Ejiofor. To see them all share the screen is a rare treat and, although many of the cast never actually meet on screen, their chemistry is palpable.
Apart from its stellar cast, a further stand out for the film has to be its soundtrack. Littered with Christmas classics and emotive tunes, it heightens the individual storylines and holds the film together. Everyone will no doubt have their personal favourites when it comes to the separate stories told in the film and the debate this causes is part of the magic.
With some truly memorable scenes (ranging from Grant bopping around Number. 10 to Rowan Atkinson’s stint as a shop assistant), Love Actually, amazingly Richard Curtis’s feature film directorial debut, offers an enjoyable and warm-hearted glimpse of (an albeit rose-tinted) England at Christmas time.
Best performance: Emma Thompson.
Best song: It’s a toughy but Christmas is all Around is so awful it’s good.
The lake that Lúcia Moniz and Colin Firth are “swimming” in was actually only eighteen inches deep and they had to kneel down and pretend to be in deeper water.