Dear Love Actually,
I first watched you about a year ago, when I saw you on Netflix. You were recommended for me, and I'm so glad you were. At first I was wary: your Christmas-y theme and multitude of connected characters seemed like you would be horrible and contrived like movies like Valentine's Day or New Years Eve. I was so wrong. I've seen you a few times now and each time you've made me laugh out loud, tear up, and want to date a British man in a sweater. There are a few things that set you apart and make you one of the best "chick flicks," if not the best, of all time. And I want to thank you for all of them.
Thank you for showing that love is not limited to romance.
Unlike many romantic comedies, you focus on more than falling in love. From the more obvious brother-sister and friend dynamics to Emma Thompson making a lobster costume for her daughter's nativity play, you put into actions the words spoken by Hugh Grant during the opening airport footage: "If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love is actually all around."
(By the way, all of the airport footage was retrieved from hidden cameras.)
Thank you for busting traditional stereotypes.
You expose us to interracial couples without even making mention of it. You portray mental illness without making it a focus. You give us an extremely mature 11-year-old and a ridiculously immature old man (and they both inspire me every time I watch them). You show a goofy delivery boy achieve his dreams by having a foursome (at least!) with beautiful American women. Perhaps most surprising, two actors who fill in for sex scenes are the most innocent, childlike characters of all! The fact of the matter is, in Love Actually, no person or relationship fully fits a mold, and you show us that life is real.
Thank you for showing us vulnerability.
There are two immensely brief moments in particular in Love Actually that make me particularly emotional. The first is at the beginning of the film when Liam Neeson is talking to his best friend Karen (played beautifully by Emma Thompson) about how his stepson is handling his mother's death and starts crying. It's short, but heartbreaking, and Karen brings him back with a heroin joke (what else are friends for?). The mood is lifted a little, but she still empathizes with his grief, which doesn't go away.
The second scene is when Mark (played by Andrew Lincoln) resists an opportunity to tell his best friend's wife his feelings for her. He leaves her alone in his apartment, steps outside, reconsiders several times, and breaks down in the most painful way to watch before zipping up his jacket and walking away form her, alone. It's raw, horribly sad, and set to Here With Me by Dido, which makes it that much more emotional.
Thank you for being body-positive (and just relationship-positive in general).
This one's a little off-the-wall, but perhaps the most traditional chick flick-y couple in the film involves a curvy girl, which is important. The overly handsome and charming Prime Minister (played by Hugh Grant, naturally. *swoon*) falls hard for his "chubby" secretary, and brushes it off like it's nothing. He loves her even more for it. He also loves her despite her low-level career, awkward (yet adorable) lack of professionalism, and the fact that she lives with her parents in a "dodgy" part of town. This relationship is not only lovely and perfect, it gives girls (including me, no shame) confidence that they don't have to look like Keira Knightley to find an amazing partner who loves them for who they are.
Thank you for showing that the strongest people can be weak...
Specifically, the relationship between Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson. Everyone loves them both. Thompson's character Karen is hilarious and loving and what all of us want to be when we're 50. She has a typical marriage with Harry, an equally awesome man played by Alan Rickman of Professor Snape fame. They aren't really passionate, but know each other in and out and love each other deeply. Then Harry f*cks up. He never actually cheats on Karen with his young, sexy, very-forward employee, but strongly considers it. In perhaps THE MOST HEARTBREAKING SCENE OF ALL TIME Karen finds out about his infidelity on Christmas Eve when he gives her the CD she wanted instead of the heart-shaped necklace she saw in his pocket. She says she doesn't feel well and calmly leaves her family sitting around the tree and quietly cries in her room.
And thank you for showing us that in the hardest of times, we can still be strong
After she briefly assesses the awful situation in her room, Karen wipes her tears, goes out into the living room and acts like nothing's wrong for the sake of her children and their Christmas. She later confronts Harry and is slow to forgive, but remains her strong, loving self in her hardest moments. Another instance of immense strength in Love Actually is when Daniel (Liam Neeson) embraces his grief of his the love of his life to be a father figure for her son. This movie does many things, and demonstrating how to be good human is one of them.
Speaking of which, thank you for Sam and Daniel.
Ohmygoodness they're so perfect. After Sam's mom's death, Daniel becomes Sam's primary parent, but since he's not his actual dad, they develop a beautiful, adult friendship. Daniel supports Sam, he jokes with Sam, he listens to Sam, he tells Sam about what it means to love, he gives Sam his space, he treats Sam like an adult, and he not only respects Sam's dreams, he does whatever it takes to make them happen. At the same time, Sam's clever sense of humor and childlike confidence helps Daniel get over his grief and inspires him to be a better person. They give us some pretty iconic quotes like: "Let's go get the the shit kicked out of us by love." #parentinggoals
Thank you for realistically showing what it's like to be disappointed
Sometimes the things we want the most just don't work out. It's already hard when this is out of our control, but when we limit our own happiness to contribute to that of others, it's even more difficult. In Love Actually, Laura Linney's character Sarah has been in love with her coworker Karl for years (two years, seven months, three days, an hour and thirty minutes to be exact). She finally has a chance to make things happen with him but leaves in the heat of the moment to keep her mentally ill brother company. This scene is especially tough to watch since Sarah and Karl never have another chance, but it's important. Sarah's self-sacrifice and lack of a happy ending is depressing, but represents the very real disappointments we face every day.
Thank you for balancing out the heavier parts with humor
Sam's adult sense of humor, Mr. Bean, Colin Firth's adorkable attempts to speak Portugese, and jokes like "there was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?" make this movie go round.
Thank you for providing us with perhaps the most romantic gesture of all time
When Mark shows up to Keira Knightley's doorstep on Christmas Eve with a boombox, a stack of poster board, and only good intentions, everyone who has ever watched this movie's heart warms and breaks at the same time. It's perfect. It's so romantic. I just, can't...
Keira Knightley's character (aptly named Juliet) runs out into the street after him and lightly kisses him once before running back inside. He walks away whispering "enough, enough now," implying that her one small bit of affection towards him would sustain him indefinitely. Love Actually, you raised the standards of romance for everyone.
And finally, after all of the love and realness and the heart-warming, thank you for the amazing sweaters.
Why doesn't anyone ever wear turtlenecks anymore? Colin Firth looks hot.
"If you can't say it Christmas, when can you, eh? I'm actually yours,"