Forget the slightly patronising title of ‘Christmas film’ – the 2003 tour de force that is Love Actually is a cinematic masterpiece, a jewel in the crown of modern British filmmaking, and a stalwart statement against the modern cynicism which plagues both Christmas and days the calendar year over.
It is a piece of film as artfully woven as a great tapestry, constructed and produced with an exacting eye for detail. Great British faces, acting royalty and special guests besides are put to use in roles truly befitting their calibre. The interweaving of their storylines is delicate, each laid gently with just enough foreshadowing that by the time they come together you’re kicking yourself thinking, duh, of course it’s him knows. Or course it’s her. Of course it’s the school play. Of course there were two lobsters present at the birth of Jesus Christ.
Character arcs mature in perfect parallel with each other, and with the soundtrack. And what a soundtrack – Love Actually takes Mariah Carey’s magnum opus and puts it in the hands of an 11-year-old girl who almost certainly does a better job. (Come on, now, we both know who has a hand in making the Google search trends for ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ look like this). While the Prime Minister and his staff simmer with sexual tension straight out of an Austen novel backstage, you feel her little voice resonating to a climax, your heart soaring with it as she looks into (perpetually) young Sam’s eyes. …..And looks past them, “and you, and you, and you”. The viewer feels their heart shatter, with an intensity of emotion you haven’t felt since Titanic, Schindler’s List, and the first four minutes of Up!.
But like any great Shakespearian masterpiece, the pieces tie together in the final act. Lovers meet, confess and/or run through airports. Right through to its very end the film sees scenes which compare to the dramatics of great epics and ancient sagas, which stay in our hearts and minds the year round. What scrap of cinema before or since could hope to rival Hugh Grant dancing to ‘Jump (For My Love)’?