The Mayans, the wise race of ancients who created hot cocoa, set December 21st, 2012 as the end date of their Calendar, which the intelligent and logical amongst us know signifies the day the world will end, presumably at 12:21:12am, Mountain Time. From now until zero date, we will explore the 50 films you need to watch before the entire world perishes. We don’t have much time, so be content, be prepared, be entertained.
The Film: Love Actually (2003)
The Plot: Love Actually marked one of the first multi-plot story line films (that actually worked) which explored the different stages, phases and versions of love set against the magical background of Christmas time in London. From the young love of Sam (Thomas Sangster) and Joanna (Olivia Olson) to the forbidden love of David (Hugh Grant) and Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) to Daniel (Liam Neeson) dealing with heartbreak, Mark’s (Andrew Lincoln) unrequited love for Juliet (Keira Knightley) and the blossoming relationship between John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page), each relationship depicted a different side and aspect of that crazy emotion that seems to drive and link us all. Love Actually showed audiences that in the end, all you need is love (despite the pain, anguish and complications that can come with it) and did so in a way that was sweet, humorous and touching.
The Review: Many consider Love Actually to be one of the quintessential films in the romantic movie genre because it does the one thing any good film about romance aims to do – make you feel good. Even though there are moments of great sadness and loss explored right alongside side the more hopeful ones, Love Actually’s upbeat soundtrack and never wavering pursuit of love (and the happiness that can come from it) works to leave you with a smile on your face. (And in the face of the end of the world, who doesn’t want to at least try and go out smiling?)
The film’s large cast (filled with many names and faces that had their first major on screen appearances in this film) is put to good use in their different story lines, but as the film goes on, those stories and relationships begin to fold into and touch one another and (more importantly) do so in a natural and believable way (cough-GaryMarshall-cough.) Moments like finding out Karen (Emma Thompson) is actually David’s sister (slight spoiler there – sorry!) and the sudden joy and relief that washes over her when he unexpectedly shows up at her children’s nativity performance shows that love does not always have to be the romantic version to be meaningful, it can also come from the comfort and familiarity of family.
Love Actually does not shy away from these seemingly smaller moments like when David is nudged to fight for his country thanks to his feelings for Natalie or when Billy Mac (Bill Nighy) turns down a party full of sex, drugs and girls in favor of spending the holidays with his long suffering manager (but also long-time friend) Joe (Gregor Fisher) and while these actions are not your typical declarations of love, they are unquestionably influenced by it. When you look at all the different couples and plots tackled within the film Love Actually seems like it should fall flat trying to juggle so many actors and plots, but it actually (pun!) works thanks to the way it laces these less conventional moments with the more typical grand gestures of proposals and performances and (most impressive) does so without losing its overall tone as it bounces between these different scenes.
Richard Curtis is able to direct what would seem like an overwhelming cast depicting a slew of different emotions with an almost seamless hand that makes each moment feel authentic whether it is making you laugh, cry or smile (which is pretty similar to what it feels like to be in love.) Everyone who has seen Love Actually seems to have their own favorite line, scene or couple because the film offers so many different options, truly making it is a film that almost anyone can (and should) enjoy.
But why spend 98 minutes watching this film when you only have 393,120 minutes left to live?
The potential end of the world should have most of us asking the big questions: What does it all mean? What is the point of this life? Who shot first – Han Solo or Greedo? (Kidding – we all know it was Han) But in the end, I think it comes down to love (actually.) With only a limited amount time left, I would I want to be with the ones I love and Love Actually demonstrates that fact handily as each relationship intersects and intertwines with one another, showing us that love (in all its messy and unpredictable forms) may in fact be is what it is all about.
Grant proposes at the beginning of the film that love is everywhere – a fact documented by watching the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport. But Grant makes an even bigger point in noting that even in the face of great tragedy like the potential end of the world or (in actuality) when the planes hit the Twin Towers, the messages from those on board “were not of hate or revenge, they were messages of love,” proving that in the end, it is love that matters most. So leave a message of love to yourself and add Love Actually to your must-see list to see for yourself that “love actually is all around.”