If you can feel it in your fingers, and feel it in your toes – you know what this review is about – Love Actually. Yes, the 2003 film starring an ensemble cast of whos-who of 2000 A (and B) list celebrities. You have Bill Nighy, Gregor Fisher, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Kris Marshall, Heike Makatsch, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley, Hugh Grant, Martine McCutcheon, Laura Linney, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Alan Rickman, Billy Bob Thornton and even more actors who make up a tremendous cast.
For a Christmas film to go over 2 hours is rare – especially in the 2000s. The ensemble cast made this relatively easy to achieve that runtime, as it takes almost a complete hour to introduce all of the “couples” who have stories throughout the film. We have Billy Mack and Joe, the pop singer and his manager. Juliet, Peter, and Mark – a love triangle where Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is first thought to be in love with Peter but is actually in love with Juliet. Then we have Jamie and Aurelia, followed by Harry, Karen, and Mia in another triangle, and then David and Natalie.
Daniel, Sam, Joanna and Carol form another unit as Daniel’s (Liam Neeson) wife Joanna, Sam’s (Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s) mom passes away. Continuing on we have Colin, Tony and his American girls, John and Judy, professional stand-ins, and then Rufus, a jewelry salesman who saves the day at the end of the film (spoilers).
To give a scene-by-scene review of everything that happens in the film would not only be a very long post here on Heartland Film Review but if you have not seen the film, would contain major spoilers that are best experienced on your own. Throughout the film, we are introduced one-by-one or more accurately two-by-two to the various characters. At first, they seem like a conglomeration of stories, until little by little we learn that they are all interwoven in some way.
The film is carried, in my opinion, by two major stories. That of the prime minister, David (Hugh Grant) and Natalie, and that of Sam and his dad. Throughout the film there is also a narrative of Billy the pop-singer’s song, which is a rehash of one of his former hits, being released and going to number one on the charts. In fact, music plays a very big role in the film and contributes to an impressive soundtrack.
What makes this film special is the interesting ways the different groups are unveiled to have a connection. We learn that the prime minister’s sister is Karen, the wife of Alan Rickman’s character. Discovering and rediscovering the different ways the characters tie in is one of the endearing qualities of the film. Even I, on my umpteenth viewing, didn’t realize that Rufus, the jewelry salesman played by Rowan Atkinson, is the one who helps Sam at the end of the film. There is so much going on, so many characters that intertwine, you will likely find things you didn’t notice when you watch the film again, especially with secondary characters.
Sadly, this isn’t a film for the entire family as there are several adult scenes with John and Judy sprinkled throughout. However, my friend Bobby informed me that you can watch a version of the film on Vudu that takes away all of these scenes for a film more suitable for family viewing.
From the music to the wonderful ensemble itself, to their performances and transitions, the intermingling of their stories to a teary-eyed ending that bookends the beginning of the film, this is definitely one of the great Christmas movies of the past 20-30 years. It will be very difficult to find a holiday film I can recommend more than this one.