It takes effort to make a relationship last a decade, but this movie about relationships of all kinds has effortlessly held a place in our hearts for a good, solid ten years. There are many movies I watch more than once but few movies that take as much preparation as Love Actually. This movie must be watched:
· In the appropriate months: After November 1st and no later than December 25th. Who wants to watch a Christmas movie on New Year’s?
· With the appropriate people: Others who have seen the movie are preferable, as they won’t ask questions throughout about the intersecting storylines and why Hugh Grant is so appealing. Those who have seen the movie will already know.
· At the appropriate time: Not too late, because it is a long movie by rom-com standards.
· With the appropriate décor: Christmas lights
· And with the appropriate snacks: Christmas cookies and some hot beverage
Despite the massive preparations necessary to watch this movie (well, alright, a few minutes’ worth of scrounging up cookies in the cabinet and rounding up some friends), I still watch it every year, once (or twice) a year, and each time it delivers something new.
When I realized this year is its tenth anniversary, I tried to think of why we love it so much, when other movies like it have tried and failed spectacularly. Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve; they both aimed high, with massive stars, centered around popular worldwide holidays, but Love Actually is the reigning triumph of this field. On paper, it looks like it would be less appealing than others—it focuses on a religious-centered holiday that not everybody celebrates, whereas the others rotate around globally celebrated days; Love Actually has a British-only cast, and while we Americans love the Brits (and their babies), we do have a fondness for our own Ashtons, Leas and Zacs.
But one masterful thing that Love Actually does is dig deep. It masquerades as a chick flick—with its DVD cover art of a carefully tied bow and its cast of Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, romantic movie legends—but it doesn’t present chick flick storylines. Sure, there are romances, but along with the fluffy ones of Brits in Wisconsin and film body doubles falling in love, there are ones that hit close to home at all times of the year and all places of the world. We see office scandal and language barriers that are representative of barriers of all sorts; we see school pageants and homemade costumes. We also see plots that are heart-wrenching and reach far beyond the normal scope of romantic comedy, feel-good holiday films: we see characters who have lost wives and mothers, who are yearning to hold their husband tight while he is yearning to break away in unfaithful scandal. The storylines that center on hard subjects are placed over lighthearted plotlines—a child who has lost his mother focuses on wooing a girl at school, and a woman whose husband is cheating creates costumes for her kids—but these stories don’t ignore the emotion that lies underneath them and that gives depth and weight to their scenes and characters. Even the storylines that are standard, the film portrays in iconic ways; unrequited love becomes the famous silent sign-holding scene, and a washed-up pop star relays a Christmas song that sticks in my head well past Christmas.
While Love Actually certainly is an overall feel-good movie, it’s also more than that. It’s a tally not only of the weeks to Christmas but of the way that love can tear us apart and sometimes, put us back together (hopefully with a Hugh Grant dance scene somewhere along the way).