Christmas films to watch: Love Actually (2003)

Christmas and love are actually all around in Richard Curtis' 2003 British Christmas offering.
Christmas and love are actually all around in Richard Curtis’ 2003 British Christmas offering.

It’s twelve days until Christmas Eve, and it’s true to say that Christmas is truly all around and never truer word spoken that in the case of 2003 British film ‘Love Actually’. Can you believe it has been eleven years since this Richard Curtis film first came  into cinemas packed full of British stars some of whom we recognised at the time – for example Kris Marshall (then known as ‘Nick’ in BBC1’s My Family), Martine McCutcheon (formerly Tiffany Mitchell in EastEnders) and Andrew Lincoln (just breaking away from ‘Simon’ in Channel 4’s Teachers); packed full of other British stars who were big in America at the time – and continue to be now – Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, to name but a few; and also eleven years on packed full of stars that weren’t even ‘that’ famous back then – Martin Freeman (The Hobbit and Sherlock), Joanna Page (Gavin & Stacey) and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Game of Thrones, Doctor Who etc). This is a film that is quintessentially British and that’s one of the reasons I love it so much.

It is no wonder why Love Actually received mixed reviews on the other side of the Atlantic and is a Christmas staple here. With additional cameos from Ant & Dec and chat show supremo Michael Parkinson, and packed full of British cultural references this is a film that for me almost sums up British Christmas culture – if there is such a thing. Bearing this fact in mind it is thus totally understandable that despite many supposedly separate stories that all the characters featured tend to have some link to each other in some way. The other great thing about this film aside from the interweaving stories (of which there are too many to list here) are the outstanding scenes that give many of this cast a great chance to shine. Whilst Christmas is all around – who can not smile when UK Prime Minister David (what a glimpse into the future that one…!) played by Hugh Grant stands up to US President (Billy Bob Thornton); or feel for Karen (Emma Thompson) as Joanie Mitchell plays out following her discovery that ‘that’ Christmas present was for her. Everyone can laugh at the sheer unrealistic nature of Colin’s (Kris Marshall) trip to America and who can forget little Sam (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and that airport dash.

With an accompanying signature music track, mixed in with popular music tracks of the day (Kelly Clarkson, Sugababes etc.) and a great attempt at Christmas number 1 with Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) singing ‘Christmas is all around’ this film is bound to tug at heart strings as well as make you punch the air for joy with a smile as everything plays out. Given the actual  UK Christmas number 1 in 2003 was Gary Jules’ ‘Mad World’ (Yes that one, the depressing title track from cult film Donnie Darko) it’s quite a pity really that ‘Christmas is all around’ only reached No. 26 in the charts that year. It was also beaten also by The Darkness ‘Christmas Time (Don’t let the bells end) and The Idols (yes, Pop Idol did a Christmas track) covering ‘Happy Christmas (War is over). Imagine how different it would have been if film and music had truly come together in 2003 – creating the fairytale ending that the film doesn’t quite wholly achieve – unfortunately we were all a bit too cool for school back then…

In short this is a film where love and Christmas are all around, complimenting each other, playing a role in each other’s lives as they so often do. This is love from all angles, this is Christmas from all angles – it’s British it’s fun to watch and it shows off more about our culture than most probably realise. When the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve, and you’re looking for that Christmas film to watch you can look no further, and no better at this. Not quite a Christmas classic in the traditional sense – but then if it were, it wouldn’t be very British now – would it?

Love Actually is available in the shops to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray – it is also being shown on Sky Movies Christmas (UK) multiple times between now and Christmas Day; check your TV Listings for more details