“The” Holidays. Family. Close friends. The end of one year and the beginning of a new one. A time when one’s heart may be at its most vulnerable—either fully open to the warmth of all the love that the season can imply, or, perhaps, fully susceptible to the loneliness that can seem almost unbearable in the longing for family, a significant other, health, or peace of mind.
The Old Hollywood often embraced this season with films that touch the beauty within the soul of humanity, the best known and most enduring example being perhaps It’s a Wonderful Life which always plays innumerable times during this season (and in which I get lost each and every time I happen to flip to it when it’s on—I’m always hooked!!).
For our family, another film has arisen as a classic Holiday film. Love, Actually is, ”actually”, that wonderful and it is a pleasure to be able to luxuriate in its dizzying and intoxicating recipe for joy, laughter, pathos, and life. Love Actually begins with a sequence at Heathrow Airport in London where the joyful greetings of families and loved ones is observed with a wonderful voice over that puts the film itself in early perspective. Even with all the anger and hate that is blared at us in our every day world, Writer/Director Richard Curtis (Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones Diary) poignantly observes that, “even after the planes hit the twin towers”, the messages from people who were on those planes were not those of hate or revenge but rather that “love is, actually, all round us.”
The film itself is a compendium of nine mostly-interlocking stories that illuminate the myriad faces of love:
– A newlywed couple and a best man who seems to be in love with one of the newlyweds himself—but which one?
– A man (Colin Firth) who finds his girlfriend in a tryst with his brother travels to France and finds a new love—even though he speaks only English and she only Portuguese.
– An aging rock star (a hilarious performance by Bill Nighy) attempts a comeback with a lame Christmas song and a beleaguered manager.
– An oversexed and wildly exuberant young man decides that he must go to America to find sex—because the woman there will be seduced by his accent!
– The new Prime Minister of England (Hugh Grant-who else?) meets someone on his staff on his first day on the job and becomes enchanted with her.
– A widower (Liam Neeson) struggles to help himself and his stepson cope with their new situation in life—and also help the boy through his first encounter with love for a schoolmate.
– A woman (Laura Linney) is hopelessly in love with a co-worker but torn because of her devotion to her mentally ill brother.
– A couple meets while they are working as stand-ins on a sexually-themed film and must simulate certain very intimate acts for the camera and lighting crew of a film while actually trying to meet each other as human beings.
– A middle-aged couple faces the careless flirtation of the husband Alan Rickman) with a zealous employee while the wife (luminously and poignantly portrayed by the inestimable Emma Thompson) struggles to maintain her dignity (she succeeds!)
On the surface, these many story lines may seem unwieldy but they most assuredly are not. In fact, they blend together almost seamlessly into an engrossing, hilarious, often poignant and very human dramatic comedy. As you might have guessed from the storylines, the film very definitely is R-rated, for tasteful and often hilarious sexuality.
Every year now, our family looks forward to our holiday date with Love, Actually, whose story mostly takes place during the Christmas season. The film is a welcome and refreshing reminder of the beauty of our humanity. That, above all the strife and challenges that confront us, we have this unique and endless capacity to consciously immerse ourselves in the experience of love. For one another, and for ourselves.
I believe that you will find yourself smiling and feeling warmed by the end of the film.
And I wish you, your family and your friends the happiest of Holidays.