Director: Richard Curtis
Cast: Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Laura Linney, Keira Knightley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Martin Freeman, Martine McCutcheon, Billy Bob Thornton, Rowan Atkinson
Synopsis: An ensemble film set in the weeks leading up to christmas with multiple story threads all based around the concept that “love actually is all around”. Though a large part of this focus is on romantic love, affection between father and son, an d brother and sister are also canvassed in this piece.
A review by Film Nerd.
Richard Curtis is the absolute king of this genre. The modern Brit rom-com largely is a result of his pen, as well as Hugh Grant’s dominance in this field. His screen writing credits include both Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Notting Hill. For this outing, he has also stepped into the director’s chair, for what I feel is his most satisfying film to date. More than this, despite seeing the flaws in the film, it has true heart, and I can’t help getting carried away. So much so that my colleagues and I named this blog in homage to the film, selecting this is one film loved by us all despite our different interests in film in general.
For me, part of this success stems from the fact that with so many story lines occurring, you never get bogged down in the usual third act will they/won’t they tragedy element. In a film with a primary storyline, this device is often used to introduce the final scene act of absolute love to win over the object of desire. Unfortunately this often feels contrived as the script in most cases slows in these instances. Rather than get stuck though, we get enough to indicate the hurdles that must be passed before moving to the next story, so there is no element of dragging to reach a 90 minute or 2 hour running time.
This is not to say that this the cause of the film’s success. Pacing is fine but you need a story(ies) to keep you interested. Though some are a little contrived or over the top, they are generally all heart warming. For some added realism though, not all story finishes well, sometimes showing the mistakes one can make in a marriage (Rickman and Thompson, both sympathetic in difficult roles), the self-sacrifice we sometimes go through for family responsibilities (Linney, brilliant as ever, and this film’s Curtis American muse, following Andie MacDowell and Julia Roberts), and even the simple, pure, unrequited love (Knightley, Ejiofor and Andrew Lincoln. These scenes, though upsetting in comparison to the others, add a dose of realism and depth to the proceedings, which is not found in many rom-coms of the modern era.
Three brilliant stories dominate, however. Grant’s newly elected Prime Minister falling for his catering staff member, Firth as the recently jilted author falling for his Portuguese house-keeper in his French villa (as you do), and Neeson establishing his relationship to his step-son following the death of his wife. The first two on paper sound a bit twee, and all three have an almost outlandish crescendo of an ending, but at this point the characters have been likeable enough to barrack for, and to be honest, to not have a crescendo ending would feel like the audience was being robbed.
This is not a film for the romantically cynical, but if you believe in romance, this is a great film to share with a partner (Bride of Film Nerd, it is on our re-watch list!), or to enjoy by yourself with a lot of popcorn and chocolate. This film convinces me of its unifying concept. Love actually is all around.
4.5 stars (out of a possible 5)
Love Actually on IMDB
Love Actually on Rotten Tomatoes