Photo: Courtesy of Universal Studios
Love Actually, the ultimate romcom starring Keira Knightley, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant and Andrew Lincoln, is celebrating its ten-year anniversary this month, which confirms the following:
1) A classic romantic comedy never gets old. Never.
2) I was a mere 14-years-old when the movie first hit theaters.
I bring up the second matter because, as an impressionable pre-teen, Love Actually set an arguably unrealistic high expectation for all romantic relationships going forward. I don't necessarily mean this as a negative, it's just that ever since watching Andrew Lincoln (Mark, in the movie) show up to Keira Knightley's place to tell her she's perfect, I came to expect the same. (I also made the realization that Kiera Knightley never, ever ages. Not one bit.)
With that said, it's worth pointing out just how many life lessons one can extract from a romcom. Here, in no particular order, the wisdom I carry around today (yes, ten years later) as a result of one very relevant, especially romantic and undeniable influential Holiday film. (Did I mention the title of my high school newspaper column was "Love, Actually?"... True story.)
1. Say Your Piece
Before Mark (played by Andrew Lincoln) unintentionally reveals his true feelings for Juliet (Keira Knightley), the man is clearly a wreck. He can barely speak to his best friend's new wife. He even screwed up their wedding video! But the second he musters up the courage—and sets an impossibly high standard for all future men—and shows up to Juliet's place in the hands down most romantic scene (seriously, what girl doesn't dream of a man telling her, "To me, you are perfect"), catharsis is reached. And although he'll probably never get the girl, he does get a kiss. Well done, sir.
2. Language Barriers, Shmanguage Barriers
As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Although English-speaking Jamie (Colin Firth) and Portuguese-speaking Aurelia (Lucia Moniz) can't communicate in the same language, the hilariously tragic pair somehow manage to be on the same page—the page of love, of course! When all else fails, go back to your native country, take Portuguese lessons, travel back to your gal's hometown, and stumble through a proposal. After all, who needs words when you have Colin Firth? He's absolutely adorable.
3. When a Hot Man (Slash Soulmate) is Lying in Your Bed, Don't Pick Up the Phone
Sarah's (Laura Linney) storyline will forever be frustrating. While supporting your family is of course a major priority, you shouldn't give up your personal happiness! Especially if the man you've been desperately pining after for "two years, seven months, three days and, I suppose, an hour and thirty minutes" (give or take a few hours) comes home with you after the company Christmas party, TAKES OFF HIS SHIRT, unleashes his perfectly coiffed onyx hair, tan skin, and looks straight into your soul with those extra dreamy eyes. In other words, don't you dare pick up the phone. And if you must, don't do it a second time! Karl (or Rodrigo Santoro, rather), I'd be happy to pick up where Sarah left off.
4. Flash Marching Bands Were the Original Flash Mobs
Love Actually was way ahead of its time. Before flash mob proposals were practically the norm, this film featured a flash marching band wedding ceremony recessional. It was probably the classiest flash anything I've ever seen. Plus, "All You Need is Love?" Touché.
5. When All Else Fails, Knock on Hundreds of Doors
Forget cell phones, email, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, OK Cupid, Instagram, and heck, even writing an actual, physical letter—the best way to find the love of your life (who, by the way, you formally fired after you found her canoodling with the President of the United States)? Knocking on every door of a "dodgy" street he or she vaguely described to you once upon a time. You may have to sing Christmas carols along the way, but boy, when you get there, it will be worth it! (Sidenote: Natalie, played by Martine McCutcheon, is not chubby. Get it together, people).
6. Joni Mitchell Cures Everything
Although no one wants their future husband to be a cheating liar, I know that if he is, I will absolutely blast Joni Mitchell in my bedroom and cry it out. I can't think of a more cathartic way to stick it Harry (AKA Alan Rickman) than by belting, "I've looked at love from both sides now/From give and take, and still somehow/It's love's illusions I recall/I really don't know love at all." Take that "emotional education!"
7. Soul Mates Aren't Necessarily Romantic
Billy Mack (played by Bill Nighy) is such an iconic character that every year when it starts to get cold I start singing under my breath "I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes..." Classically heinous lyrics aside, Bill wins points for showing all of us that your soul mate doesn't necessarily have to be a half-nude Santa at Elton John's Christmas party. In fact, your soul mate doesn't even need to be someone you're romantically interested in. As the gregarious rock star teaches us, "as dire chance and... and... and fateful cockup would have it" the love of your life could be a "chubby employee." In Mack's case, it's his manager. Like Carrie Bradshaw and company also posit in Sex and The City, sometimes, your best friends are your soul mates—and men (or women) are just these wonderful people to have fun with. True or not, this idea definitely takes a lot of pressure off of searching for "the one!"
8. You Can Find Love in a Truly Hopeless Place
Although it's a more minor plot point (and one that never ceases to stop puzzling me), sex scene body-doubles John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) meet in an especially precarious place. And yet, despite the awkward scenario, the two persevere and fall in love. While I might not make a career change to body double anytime soon, I did learn that love could pop up at the most unexpected moments.
9. Kids Do the Darndest Things
To say that little Sam (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) steals the movie is an understatement. The kid is more attuned to love than all of the adults in the ensemble cast combined. And while his chalkboard notes ("I said I'm not hungry") and prophetic statements ("But you know, the thing about romance is... people only get together right at the very end") taught me many lessons, his best move by far is when he decides to "get the shit kicked out of [him] by love." As he epicly runs through airport security to profess his love (and then procure an adorable kiss on the cheek), it's hard not to think about how unfazed kids are by the idea of romance. When they want something, they get it. It's amazing how this fearless kid manages to be more open than most of us are in our adult lives. You go, Sam!
10. Love is Truly All Around
With all of the different mishaps, circumstances, and triumphs, the most important takeaway from this movie comes straight from the opening scene. Despite embarrassments and heartbreaks, many of these characters face their fears, open their hearts, and let love in their lives. It's a lesson that anyone can learn and apply to any relationship. And that, my friends, is why Love Actually has, and will continue to stand the test of time.