Many readers sound off on the polarizing film:
Love Actually is interesting because it is a story about the different aspects of love, not just romance. New love (Jack and Just Judy). Old love in a rut (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman). Unadulterated lust (Collin). A parent’s love, as well as love for and duty to a deceased partner (Liam Neeson). Siblings (Laura Linney). Unrequited love (Mark and Juliet). Love between friends (Billy Mack). Love with obstacles (Jamie and Aurela). Love you try to deny but can’t (HG and Natalie). I really like the fact that it isn’t a traditional love story.
Relating to the point of work required for a relationship, while Liam Neeson’s character displays this in the care and devotion he shows the son of his departed wife, it was best illustrated by a storyline left on the cutting room floor. In the deleted scenes, there is a story about the principal of the posh elementary school where Emma Thompson’s children are enrolled. The principal has her own love story, providing hospice care to her beloved longtime partner, and dealing with the grief over her loss.
The rabid fans of Love Actually I know are all chronically, unhappily single. I know some coupled folks and happy singles who like the movie well enough. But it is the unhappy singles who spontaneously post their adoration of the movie on Facebook or will at the slightest provocation tell you their favorite scenes in great detail. Far be it from me to suggest that the inability of these people to form the sort of meaningful relationship they so desire and the movie’s unrealistic portrayal of how love is found, won, built and sustained is anything more than sheer coincidence.
It certainly isn’t a how-to for romance. Some of the relationships are entirely inappropriate. No one recommends buying an expensive piece of jewelry for a flirtatious coworker instead of your wife or declaring your love to your best friend’s new wife.
But I think the central running theme here is about allowing your heart to run and giving up self-censorship.
That’s the fundamental romanticism of the film. And like all romanticism it’s not realistic; it’s emotional. The one character who doesn’t release her self-censorship (Laura Linney) misses her chance. The others get the chance to at least express their emotions, which is refreshing in an emotionally stilted culture. I like the movie and I will probably watch it again in the next week, not because I need pointers on how to cheat on my wife, but because I want to enter into the emotion that causes these people to do profoundly stupid things.
I just love the movie and find it to be an uplifting paean to love and the yearning for connection. It seems to me that this movie displays how the world does look to someone who is actually in love, particularly in the first flush of romance. When in love, we see mostly good and as love matures, we are given the opportunity to work with the difficult as well as the easy. This film does display some of the challenges that may occur in relationships, as reflected in the characters played by Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, and what happens after the death of a loved one for Liam Neeson’s character. Also we have Laura Linney’s character, her mentally ill brother, and her delicious co-worker, as another representation of love and yearning for connection but involving difficult choices.
One more point. I find this movie especially interesting because it displays the pursuit of love mostly from a male point of view, one not often portrayed in films. I do think that this film can be unsettling to some men since it does reveal that most men do have a deep sensitivity to love and a desire for real connection with someone, whether the preference be female or male. This deep sensitivity carries with it an anxiety about potential rejection from the desired individual and, as revealed in this film, guys are as vulnerable to this as women are. But most films do not display that aspect in men’s lives. And most men have been culturally trained to not let this vulnerability show. It is not macho.
So I would recommend that people just “lighten up” and try to balance joy with all of the intellectual analyses of this film. This film presents us with a beautiful invitation to get out of our head and into our heart.
Another points to the above scene:
The best part of Love Actually is the last minute or so, where the filmmakers simply show real people meeting loved ones at the airport (to a soundtrack of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”). I defy anyone not to be moved!
Previous debate on the film here.