Love Actually is a 2003 romantic comedy film written and directed by Richard Curtis. The screenplay delves into different aspects of love as shown through ten separate stories involving a wide variety of individuals, many of whom are shown to be interlinked as their tales progress. The ensemble cast is composed predominantly of British actors.
Set in London, the film begins five weeks before Christmas and is played out in a weekly countdown until the holiday, followed by an epilogue that takes place one month later.
The film begins with a voice-over from David (Hugh Grant) commenting that whenever he gets gloomy with the state of the world he thinks about the arrivals terminal at Heathrow Airport, and the pure uncomplicated love felt as friends and families welcome their arriving loved ones. David's voiceover also relates that all the known messages left by the people who died on the 9/11 planes were messages of love and not hate. The film then tells the 'love stories' of many people:
Billy Mack and Joe
With the help of his longtime manager Joe (Gregor Fisher), aging rock and roll legend Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) records a Christmas variation of The Troggs' classic hit "Love Is All Around". Nonetheless he promotes the release in the hope it will become the Christmas number one single. The song does go to number one; after briefly celebrating his victory at a party hosted by Sir Elton John, Billy suggests that he and Joe celebrate Christmas by getting drunk and watching porn.
Juliet, Peter and Mark
Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are wed in a lovely ceremony orchestrated and videotaped by Mark (Andrew Lincoln), Peter's best friend and best man. The video he recorded reveals that he secretly has feelings for her.
Jamie and Aurélia
Writer Jamie (Colin Firth) first appears preparing to attend Juliet and Peter's wedding. His girlfriend (Sienna Guillory) misses the ceremony to be with his brother. Jamie retires to his French cottage where he meets Portuguese housekeeper Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz), who speaks only her native tongue Portuguese. There is an instant attraction between the two. When Jamie returns to England he realises he is in love with Aurelia. He learns her native language and goes back to propose to her. When he does propose to her, she says yes, and it is revealed that she been learning English to communicate with Jamie.
Harry, Karen, and Mia
Harry (Alan Rickman) is the managing director of a design agency; Mia (Heike Makatsch), is his new secretary. For Christmas he buys her an expensive necklace from jewellery salesman Rufus (Rowan Atkinson), who elaborately wraps while Harry becomes increasingly nervous with the fear of detection. Meanwhile, Harry's wife Karen (Emma Thompson) is busy dealing with their children, Daisy (Lulu Popplewell) and Bernard (William Wadham), who are appearing in the school Nativity, to her brother David (Hugh Grant), who just became Prime Minister, and her friend Daniel, who has just lost his wife. Karen discovers the necklace in Harry's coat pocket and assumes it is a gift for her; Karen later confronts Harry over the necklace, who admits to foolishness.
David and Natalie
Karen's brother, the recently elected British Prime Minister David (Hugh Grant), is young, handsome, and single. Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) is a new junior member of the household staff at 10 Downing Street and regularly serves his tea and biscuits. Something seems to click between them. David walks in to find the U.S. President attempting to seduce Natalie. David has Natalie moved, but later comes across a Christmas card "With Love, Your Natalie." He eventually finds Natalie at her family's home, then drives everyone to the local school for the nativity play, the same one in which his niece and nephew are appearing, and the two watch the show from backstage, their budding relationship exposed when a curtain is raised during the big finale.
Daniel; Sam and Joanna
Daniel (Liam Neeson), Karen's friend, and his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) fend for themselves, where Sam has fallen for American visitor Joanna (Olivia Olson). Daniel consoles Sam, who is heartbroken over recent news of Joanna's return to the United States, and convinces him to go catch Joanna at the airport.
Sarah, Karl and Michael
Sarah (Laura Linney) first appears at Juliet and Peter's wedding, sitting next to her friend Jamie. We learn she works at Harry's graphic design company, where she has been in love for years with its creative director, Karl (Rodrigo Santoro). A tryst between Karl and herself is interrupted by Sarah's mentally ill brother, Michael (Michael Fitzgerald), and this effectively ends their relationship. On Christmas Eve, she loves visiting her brother at the institution where he lives, wrapping a scarf around him as he hugs her.
Colin, Tony, Stacey, Jeannie, Carol-Anne, Harriet and Carla
After several blunders attempting to woo various English women, including Mia and Nancy (the caterer at Juliet and Peter's wedding), Colin Frissell (Kris Marshall) informs his friend Tony (Abdul Salis) he plans to go to the US and find love there. He meets Stacey (Ivana Milicevic), Jeannie (January Jones), and Carol-Anne (Elisha Cuthbert), three stunningly attractive women who fall for his Basildon accent and invite him to stay at their home. Colin accepts.
John and Judy
John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page), meet as stand-ins for the sex scenes in a movie. John tells Judy that "it is nice to have someone [he] can just chat to." The two carefully and cautiously pursue a relationship, and see the play at the local school together with John's brother.
Rufus is a minor, but significant, character played by Rowan Atkinson, the jewellery salesman whose obsessive attention to gift-wrapping gets Harry caught buying Mia's necklace. It is his distraction of staff at the airport which allows Sam to sneak through. His character is seen as a sort of guardian angel, as his place in the film is to look out for the other characters.
In the epilogue, set one month later, the film's characters are seen to be in relationships: love, actually. These scenes dissolve into live-footage of arrivals at Heathrow Airport, which divide the screen and eventually form a heart as the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" plays on.
- Thomas Sangster, who played Sam, and Olivia Olson, who played Joanna, would work together again on the Disney Channel animated series Phineas and Ferb. Notably, Thomas' character, Ferb Fletcher, has a crush on Olivia's character, Vanessa Doofenshmirtz, similar to Sam's crush on Joanna in this film.
- Chat show host Michael Parkinson and tv presenters Ant & Dec star in the film as themselves.
- The DVD commentary includes director Richard Curtis noting that Olson's rendition of "All I Want For Christmas Is You" was so pitch-perfect that they had to train her to sound more like what one would expect a 10-year-old to sound like. The reason was that Curtis and the production team feared viewers would think that Olson was lip-synching to Mariah Carey.
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