Few rom coms have stood the test of time the way Love Actually has. Even now, 20 years on Richard Curtis’s star stuffed directorial debut is still many people’s favorite annual rewatch.
Which is why it makes sense that the cult classic is returning to cinemas this Christmas to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
The film follows nine interconnected storylines over the Christmas period in London. Each exploring the different forms that love can take, because “If you can’t say it at Christmas, when can you, eh?” as put by Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) in her letter to the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant).
Amongst the star-studded cast there’s Grant, the UK’s most eligible Prime Minister, who becomes infatuated with his assistant after an expletive-filled first meeting.
Colin Firth is a broken-hearted writer who, whilst working on his latest book, falls in love (and into a lake) with his Portuguese cleaner.
Bill Nighy takes on the role of rock n roll has been Billy Mack, staging a long shot come back with an outrageously bad Christmas single, “Christmas is all around”.
Martin Freeman and Joanna Page team up as naked body doubles on a movie set and start to fancy each other despite the awkward atmosphere.
Laura Linny is an office worker juggling her career with caring for her brother whilst simultaneously pining after a handsome colleague.
Liam Neeson is a grieving stepfather trying to reconnect with his son (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) by helping him woo the girl he fancies at school.
Kris Marshall's character travels to Wisconsin in the hopes of getting some action but gets more than he bargained for.
The fan favorite that has been criticized, cringed at and copied sees Andrew Lincoln’s character confess to his best friend’s wife (Keira Knightly and Chiwetel Ejiofor) that to him, she is perfect…through the medium of giant cue cards.
However, most heartbreaking is Karen’s (Emma Thompson) discovery of her husband’s (Alan Rickman) affection for his assistant by opening a box expecting a necklace but instead receiving a Joni Mitchell CD.
The different strands running through the film, in part, are the reason why it is still a beloved holiday classic. The different portrayals of love mean that a viewer can relate to different stories at different stages of their own life, whether it’s your first crush, a painful betrayal, an unrequited love or an all-consuming one. It is all dealt with in Love Actually. As Curtis has explained in previous interviews, the movie is not about people in love but love itself.
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However, whilst the premise of the film still holds up, the flaws do too, with many of the points made by critics in 2003 still being raised today. Such as the film being told too much from the male perspective, having too many fat jokes and too many relationships between a man and his female subordinate, as well as the lack of diversity. During a reunion last year, Curtis admitted that the film was “bound in some moments to feel out of date. The lack of diversity makes me feel uncomfortable and a bit stupid.”
Yet, for the most part, it still makes us laugh. Prior to becoming the ruler of rom coms, Curtis was a comedy sketch writer (most famously on Blackadder), which is something that shines through in various scenes, such as Rowan Atkinson's cameo appearance or the addition of the Christmas lobster in the nativity play.
The film is filled with romantic clichés, such as Grant’s character knocking on every door in “the dodgy end” of Wandsworth until he finds Natalie or when Sam runs through the airport to catch his crush before her flight, but it also goes a little bit deeper by suggesting that the main obstacle when it comes to love is us. Leaning into the idea that with Christmas comes a little bit of magic, and you can expect the unexpected.
Love Actually is back in cinemas nationwide from November 24.