Love Actually is a romantic comedy film first released in cinemas in October and November 2003. The film was the directorial debut of successful English screen-writer Richard Curtis and features an ensemble cast including Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Keira Knightley, Martin Freeman, Emma Thompson, Andrew Lincoln, Laura Linney, Rowan Atkinson, Thomas Sangster and Olivia Olson.
The film received a British premiere in Leicester Square in London on 16 November 2003. There Curtis described his film as a "roaring rampage of romance" - a reference to the Quentin Tarantino movie Kill Bill released around the same time with the tagline a "roaring rampage of revenge". The film, released two weeks earlier in the United States, had received a mixed bag of reviews including a particularly poor review from A. O. Scott of The New York Times. Defending the film at the premiere, Curtis said "I'd rather make a film that most of the audience liked and some critics didn't rather than a film that critics loved and nobody wanted to watch."
As of July 2005, Love Actually had achieved a US gross box office of over $59 million and a world box office of just under $245 million.
Taglines: It's all about love...actually and Love actually is all around.
The movie weaves a number of love stories together, with a number of characters linking them together. Below are summaries of each vignette, with crossovers pointed out appropriately. The film begins five weeks before Christmas.
Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) records a Christmas single based on The Troggs classic hit "Love is All Around." Billy "promotes" his new single throughout the film despite his honest admission that it is a crap record. Additionally he promises to peform the song naked on television should his song become number one. He is constantly insulting his manager Joe (Gregor Fisher). Billy's single manages to win the Christmas number one single contest. Instead of celebrating his victory at glamorous parties (most notably one hosted by Elton John, to which he is invited and briefly visits), he returns to Joe's flat to celebrate. Christmas is a time to be with the people you love, and Joe is essentially Billy's family; the two celebrate Christmas by getting drunk and watching porn. Coincidentally, the song is the same as that featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral, by the same writer.
Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) have a lovely wedding. Mark (Andrew Lincoln), best man and Peter's best friend, makes a personal tape of the ceremony and reception. When the official wedding video turns out to be dreadful, Juliet contacts Mark in the hopes of getting a copy of his footage, despite the fact that he has always been cold to her. The video tape which turns out to be made entirely of close-ups on her, at which point she realises that Mark is in love with her and he confesses that his coldness toward her is "a self preservation thing". Later, Mark shows up at Juliet's door. Pretending to be a carol singer via a portable CD player, he uses a series of signs to convey his true feelings towards Juliet since "at Christmas you tell the truth." After his confession and a quick kiss from her, she returns to her husband whom she genuinely loves and he can finally move on with his life.
Jamie (Colin Firth) first appears with Mark at Juliet and Peter's wedding (see above). He is a writer who retires to the solitude of a French cottage after finding his girlfriend cheating on him with his own brother. Here he meets housekeeper AurÃƒÂ©lia (LÃƒÂºcia Moniz), who knows nothing but Portuguese. Despite the language barrier they somehow manage to communicate with each other. Their love grows and it seems quite sad when Jamie returns to England for Christmas. Jamie decides to ditch Christmas livations with his family to fly back to France and propose to AurÃƒÂ©lia with his recently-learned Portuguese. She accepts with her recently learned English.
Harry (Alan Rickman) is a manager at a design agency. Mia (Heike Makatsch) is his secretary, and she clearly has a thing for him. Harry's nascent mid-life crisis means he welcomes, tentatively, her attentions, and he purchases an expensive necklace for her (from a jewellery salesman played memorably by Rowan Atkinson. Meanwhile, his wife Karen (Emma Thompson) is quite busy preparing for Christmas, dealing with her brother David (Hugh Grant, see below), her children's school Nativity pageant, and helping her friend Daniel (Liam Neeson, see below) after his wife's death. Karen mildly suspects something's up with Harry. She comes across the expensive necklace in his coat pocket, and happily assumes it is a surprise Christmas gift for her. So, when the gifts are given, it comes as a huge shock when Karen finds Harry has bought her a CD (Joni Mitchell, who "taught your cold English wife how to feel") and the necklace is nowhere in evidence. She realises that he is involved with someone else and the necklace was destined for that person. Towards the end of the film, after the school nativity, Karen confronts Harry, who admits that he has been an utter fool. The end of the movie (an airport terminal, in which a number of characters who have gone abroad return on the same plane) suggests that, though the two are not on steady terms, they intend to tough it out.
The Prime Minister David (Hugh Grant) is single. Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) is part of the catering staff and regularly serves his tea and biscuits. Something clicks between them, but they do not pursue their attraction save some light flirting. When the President of the United States (Billy Bob Thornton) pays a visit, his refusal to change any policies and arrogant behavior leave the British advisors stymied. After the President issues Natalie a rude proposition, David decides enough is enough. He stands up for Britain and essentially embarrasses the President in a nationally televised UK press conference. A sweet Christmas card to David signed "actually yours, Natalie" encourages him to find her and confess his feelings, and he treks down her street in search of her. Mia, her next-door neighbor, informs him when he's finally reached his goal. Natalie and family are heading to the Christmas pageant at the local school, and she convinces him to watch the show from backstage, where they also bump into Karen. David and Natalie finally kiss, but are exposed to the whole school when a curtain is raised during the big pageant finale
Daniel (Liam Neeson) has just lost his wife Joanna to a protracted illness, leaving him and stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) to fend for themselves. Daniel must deal with his sudden responsibility, as well as the evident end of his love life ("That was a done deal long ago," he says to Sam. "...Unless, of course, Claudia Schiffer calls, in which case I want you out of the house straight away, you wee motherless mongrel"). Sam, too, is especially forlorn about something, and eventually reveals that he is in love with an amazing girl singer from his school, also named Joanna (Olivia Olson), who probably doesn't know he exists. She will be returning to America after the Christmas pageant. Sam eventually decides to become a drummer for the pageant to impress Joanna. Unfortunately, Sam fails to make his meaning clear, and he and Daniel must chase her to the airport. Thanks to the Jewellery Clerk, Sam is able to sneak past airport security to confess his love to Joanna. Finally, just before the hasty departure for the airport, Daniel bumps into another parent, Carol (played by none other than Claudia Schiffer). Sparks, of course, immediately fly, and in the closing airport-terminal scene they await Joanna's return hand-in-hand.
Sarah (Laura Linney) and Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) work at Harry's design agency. Sarah has been not so secretly obsessing over Karl for the duration of her employment. Harry implores her to say something finally to Karl since it's Christmas and indeed he already knows. Unfortunately for all concerned, Sarah has a mentally-ill brother who contacts her mobile incessantly; she feels responsible for her brother and constantly puts her life on hold to support him. In the end, though she has a chance with Karl after the company's Christmas party (hosted at an art gallery run by Mark), she abandons it for her brother's sake. This section of the film is unsettling and there are certainly deeper issues about mental illness which remain untouched. However, it is a brave move that attempts to show mental illness in its harsh and disturbing reality (at one point, the brother she so loves attempts to hit her before being restrained by a hospital worker) without resorting to the stereotypes of mental illness, i.e. the gaunt but handsome tortured artist type featured in so many other screen renditions of mental illness.
Colin (Kris Marshall) after continually making blunders with women informs his friend Tony (Abdul Salis) that he will head to America and find love in Wisconsin. His romanticised impression of America leads him to believe that it is filled to the brim with gorgeous women who will fall head over heels for him because, based on their romanticised notions of Britain, women swoon and fall into his bed ("Over there, I'm Prince William without the weird family"). In a bizarre turn of events he finds four very attractive women in an average bar who invite him to stay at their home. After his successful trip he brings back two of the girls, one for himself and one for a very surprised Tony.
John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) work as stand-ins for the bedroom scenes in an arthouse-type film. Tony (from the Colin subplot) is part of the film crew, and passes them directions as to the activities they should simulate so that lighting checks, etc can be completed. Despite their blatantly sexual actions they are very nervous around each other, and carefully and cautiously pursue a relationship, with a first kiss at the very end of the film. This subplot was deleted in Asian releases, except in Japan and the Philippines
Bill Nighy won a BAFTA Award as "Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role" in 2004 and the film received a couple of nominations in other categories. The film was also nominated for the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film and Emma Thompson was nominated for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role".
Love Actually was nominated in the 2004 Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture - Comedy and Musical and Richard Curtis was nominated for Best Screenplay.