Moving Pictures™ – A Review of Love Actually
By Terri Catlin
A director friend once told me that observing people at an airport is like watching a Chekhov play. If you’ve never noticed the heightened emotion of everyday air travel, it’s hard to imagine what he meant. But the opening of Love Actually, with its slow-motion scenes of ordinary people reuniting at Heathrow in London, paints the picture beautifully. I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen this movie, and yet I always cry at the beginning.
It is true that I’m a hopeful romantic. Seeing a funny, intelligent, and insightful movie that isn’t dark or cynical is a bit of perfection for me – a great way to recharge any fading optimism. In the wake of September 11th, the film observes, there is a lot of talk about how much hate is in the world. But despite the fact that it may not be newsworthy, says Hugh Grant in the opening narrative, “Love, actually, is all around.”
Mr. Grant is only one of the all-star ensemble members in this quilted patchwork of love stories. Colin Firth, Keira Knightly, Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Alan Rickman, and Emma Thompson and are just some of the stellar performers that light up this homage to love in all its splendid and heartbreaking forms. The lives of several people are intermingled in the telling of no less than 10 love stories – stories of romantic love, unrequited love, familial love, forbidden love, puppy love, and even love of country. There are, in fact, few facets of love that are not explored in this refreshing joyride. And this is why I chose to write about this film.
It is daring, in this age of dark and gritty film realism, to tell stories of love so unabashedly. To speak of it in glowing terms, with no apology, no irony, no chic cynicism. And this is why Richard Curtis, the writer/director of Love Actually, is one of my heroes. The writer of romantic comedy blockbusters like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’ Diary is not afraid to believe in love – publicly. This may not sound like a feat of great courage, but think about it. What do we talk about around the water cooler? How much we love our spouses? What our friends and colleagues mean to us? How we can be moved to tears when we watch our children sleeping? And yet we feel these things, or similar things, but we don’t talk about them. It’s much more acceptable to complain about the economy, the weather, politicians…. Love is unprofessional. Funny thing, isn’t it? The most powerful force in the universe, and we’re afraid to talk about it.
And so I applaud the scope of hopefulness, the flights of fantasy, and the sometimes-sublime silliness of this moving picture. Although I wouldn’t categorize it as a typical Christmas film (it is R-rated), Love Actually does take place in the five weeks leading up to Christmas. Which is why, in my home, it has become an “adult” holiday tradition.
Terri Catlin is an award-winning actor/writer/director. She and her husband, Alan Catlin, teach improv to business professionals, teams, couples, and anyone committed to being effective in an unpredictable world.
Love Actually is available on DVD and on Netflix.