Actually, we need to express our love, and that’s why this film is timeless

love actually is an annoying film not only for me but also for many others. I have loved and loathed this film in equal parts for the 19 years it has been in our collective psyche.

On the negative side of the ledger love actually is full of gross implausibility (but that’s the stock of most rom-coms). It’s set in a socio-economic portrayal of London that’s very unfamiliar to me and sometimes unrecognizable. It’s twee, it’s sentimental to the point of mustache, and who the hell says things like “Shit, buggedy, bum” when they’re swearing? That’s not fucking swearing!

Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman in a scene from Love Actually.

Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman in a scene from Love Actually.

In favor of the film, I like that it’s Christmas in London (full disclosure – I’ve experienced a number of Christmases in my home country’s capital and it’s great). I like that Liam Neeson’s character has a stepson who, albeit precocious, is able to articulate an idea I’m not unfamiliar with: “What could be worse than the utter agony of love?” Bill Nighy’s freaky rock star is Billy Mack a fantastically lurid comedic twist, and there’s no better teasing prat than a Hugh Grant teasing twit, reprising his role in notting hill and Four weddings and one deathbut with a career upgrade as a PM.

Finally, there’s this bedroom scene by Emma Thompson (with due credit to Joni Mitchells Both sides… now), which has been examined from all angles, is such a gem that I don’t need to revisit this exquisite vignette.

It’s useless to watch love actually through the prism of logic or reality, as this Christmas confection of a movie is so far removed from these touchstones of veracity that you might as well hold up any movie favorite – in which they all lived happily ever after – as a broken mirror of life . Still, there’s something deeply embedded in this film that actually rings a bell of truth bigger than just merry ding-dong on high.


Within the last 30 minutes of love actually, the film’s nine plots all reach their climax. Sam, the little boy, chases after Joanna, the young American girl, to tell her what he’s been holding back, that he believes she’s right for him. Colin Firth’s character flies to Marseille, pulls out his love light from under a bushel, and asks the Portuguese Aurelia to marry him in front of diners in a crowded restaurant. Rock star Billy Mack leaves Elton John’s Christmas party to “watch porn and drink whiskey” with his long-suffering manager and friend, revealing to him “you turn out to be the frigging love of my life”. In a coda with art gallery owner Mark and Keira Knightley’s Juliet story, Mark spells out his feelings – come what may – in A1-size cue cards and then moves on with his life. Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister publicly reaffirms his feelings for Downing Street’s Natalie to the pupils, parents and teachers of a Wandsworth school, and so all the plots are wrapped in a positive ending of sorts with one notable exception:

Sarah (Laura Linney) and her colleague Karl secretly have a crush on each other. They almost pull it together after the company Christmas party, but there are complications. Throughout their storyline, they both have ample opportunities to say how they feel about each other, but they don’t. Consequently, their love lies and dies unspoken.

Look beyond the awkward, sometimes creepy, cliche execution of these plot resolutions to the valuable idea behind them. In practically all love actually‘s plot finale, the characters do find love if they muster up the courage to put that love into words. Love has a chance to thrive in the characters’ world when they express love. Actually, we need to express our love, and that’s why this film is timeless

Jaclyn Diaz

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