Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Curtis|
|Written by||Richard Curtis|
|Music by||Craig Armstrong|
|Edited by||Nick Moore|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$248.5 million|
Love Actually is a 2003 British Christmas-themed romantic comedy film written and directed by Richard Curtis, and mostly filmed on location in London. It features an ensemble cast, composed predominantly of British actors, many of whom had worked with Curtis in previous film and television projects. 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 the tales progress. The story 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. It is an international co-production between the United Kingdom, United States, and France.
The film was released in the United States on 14 November 2003, receiving mixed reviews. It opened in the United Kingdom one week later, to positive reviews. The film was a box-office success, grossing $248 million worldwide on a budget of $40-45 million. It received a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. Frequently shown during the Christmas season, the film has proved more popular with audiences than critics, and it has been discussed as being arguably a modern-day Christmas staple.
The film begins with a voiceover from David (Hugh Grant) commenting that whenever he gets gloomy about 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 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:
With the help of his longtime manager Joe (Gregor Fisher), rock and roll legend Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) records a Christmas variation of The Troggs' "Love Is All Around". Although he thinks the record is terrible, Mack promotes the release in the hope it will become the Christmas number one single, which it does. After briefly celebrating his victory at a party hosted by Sir Elton John, Billy discerns that Joe is in need of affection and suggests that he and Joe celebrate Christmas by getting drunk and watching porn.
Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Peter's (Chiwetel Ejiofor) marriage is videotaped by the best man, Mark (Andrew Lincoln). Although both Juliet and Peter believe that Mark dislikes Juliet, he is actually in love with her. When Mark evades Juliet's requests to see the video he made at the wedding, she visits him. She says she wants them to be friends and, when she finds and views the wedding video, it turns out to be just adoring close-ups of her. After an uncomfortable silence, Mark blurts out that he snubs her out of "self-preservation." On Christmas Eve, Juliet answers the doorbell to find Mark carrying a boombox playing Christmas songs and large cue cards, on which he has written, without expectation of reciprocation, that he loves her. As he walks away, Juliet runs after him to give him a quick kiss before she returns inside.
Writer Jamie (Colin Firth) is pushed by his girlfriend (Sienna Guillory) to attend Juliet and Peter's wedding alone, as she feigns illness. He returns between the ceremony and the reception to check on her, and discovers that she is having an affair with his brother. Crushed, Jamie withdraws to his French cottage, where he meets Portuguese housekeeper Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz), who does not speak English. Despite their inability to communicate, they become attracted to each other. When Jamie returns to England, he realises he is in love with Aurélia and begins learning Portuguese. He returns to France to find her and ends up walking through town, gathering people as they walk to her job at a restaurant. In broken Portuguese he declares his love for her and proposes. She says yes, in broken English, as the crowd erupts in applause.
Harry (Alan Rickman) is the managing director of a design agency; Mia (Heike Makatsch) is his new secretary. Harry is comfortably married to Karen (Emma Thompson), who stays home to raise their children. He becomes increasingly aroused by Mia's overtly sexual behaviour at the office and does nothing to dissuade her. At the company Christmas party held at Mark's gallery, Harry not only enquires if Mark is Mia's boyfriend, but also dances closely with her. While at the shops, he calls her to find out what she wants for Christmas and ends up almost caught by his wife purchasing an expensive necklace from the jewellery department thanks to the salesman Rufus (Rowan Atkinson). Later on, Karen discovers the necklace in Harry's coat pocket and happily assumes it is a gift for her. When she finds a similarly shaped box under the tree to open on Christmas Eve, she is heartbroken to find it is a Joni Mitchell CD, meaning that the necklace was for someone else. She confronts Harry and asks him what he would do if he were her. She says that he has made a mockery of their marriage and of her.
Karen's brother, David (Hugh Grant), is the recently elected Prime Minister. Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) is a new junior member of the household staff at 10 Downing Street. During a meeting with the U.S. President (Billy Bob Thornton), they run into Natalie and the president makes some inappropriate comments to David about Natalie's body. Later, David walks in on Natalie serving tea and biscuits to the president, and it appears that something untoward is happening. Natalie seems ashamed, but the president has a sly grin on his face. At the following joint press conference, David is uncharacteristically assertive while taking a stand against the president's intimidating policies. Finding that his relationship with Natalie has become strained and a distraction, David has her moved to another job. However, he is spurred to action on Christmas Eve when he finds a Christmas card from Natalie declaring that she is his and no one else's. After a door-to-door search of her street, he comes across Mia, who informs him that Natalie lives next door. The entire family is on their way to a multi-school Christmas play and he offers to drive them so he can talk to her. After Natalie sneaks him in to the school, he runs into his heartbroken sister, who believes he is there for his niece and nephew. As David and Natalie try to keep from being seen and watch the show from backstage, they finally kiss. All their hiding is for nothing, however, as the curtain rises and they are seen kissing by everyone.
Daniel (Liam Neeson), Karen's friend, mourns the recent death of his wife, Joanna, as he tries to raise his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) alone. Sam has fallen for an American classmate, also named Joanna (Olivia Olson), and, after discussion with his stepfather, decides to learn the drums so that he can accompany her in the big finale for their school's Christmas pageant (the same one that David's niece and nephew/Karen and Harry's children are in). After Sam feels that he missed his chance to make an impression on her, Daniel convinces him that he must go catch Joanna, who is returning to the US, at the airport that night and show her how he feels, lest he regret it. Sam runs away from the airport security and says hi to Joanna, who then kisses him on the cheek. Meanwhile, Daniel meets Carol (Claudia Schiffer), the mother of one of Sam's schoolmates.
Sarah (Laura Linney) first appears at Juliet and Peter's wedding, sitting next to her friend Jamie. She is an American who works at Harry's graphic design company and has been in love for years with the company's creative director, Karl (Rodrigo Santoro). They finally connect at the firm's Christmas party and he drives her home. They kiss, but before more can occur, they are interrupted by her mentally ill brother, Michael, phoning from a mental care facility. Sarah and Karl's evening tryst is aborted and Karl leaves. Both are working late on Christmas Eve and when Karl leaves, he just wishes her a Merry Christmas. Michael phones Sarah and she goes to stay with him, sharing her Christmas scarf.
After unsuccessfully attempting to woo various English women, including Mia and Nancy (Julia Davis), the caterer at Juliet and Peter's wedding, Colin Frissell (Kris Marshall) informs his friend Tony (Abdul Salis) that he plans to go to America, convinced that his Britishness will be an asset. Landing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Colin meets Stacey (Ivana Mili?evi?), Jeannie (January Jones), and Carol-Anne (Elisha Cuthbert), three stunningly attractive women who fall for his Estuary English and invite him to stay at their home, where they are joined by roommate Harriet (Shannon Elizabeth).
John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) are professional stand-ins for films. They meet for the sex scenes in a film for which Tony is a production assistant. John tells Judy that "It is nice to have someone [he] can just chat to." While the two are perfectly comfortable being naked and simulating sex on-set, they are shy and tentative off-set. Carefully pursuing a relationship, they attend the Christmas pageant (involving David and Natalie, Harry and Karen's children, Daniel and Sam, et al.) at the local school with John's brother.
Rufus (Rowan Atkinson) is the jewellery salesman, whose obsessive attention to gift-wrapping nearly results in Harry being caught buying a necklace for Mia by Karen. Also, it is his distraction of staff at the airport which allows Sam to sneak through to see Joanna. In the director and cast commentary, it is revealed that Rufus was originally supposed to be a Christmas angel; however, this was dropped from the final script.
One month later, all of the characters are seen in Heathrow Airport. Billy tells Joe that his Christmas single has spurred a comeback. Juliet, Peter, and Mark meet Jamie and his bride, Aurélia. Karen and the kids greet Harry, but Karen's reaction suggests that they are struggling to move past his indiscretion. Sam greets Joanna, who has returned with her mother from America, and Daniel is joined by his new girlfriend Carol and her son. Newlyweds John and Judy, heading off to their honeymoon, run into Tony, who is awaiting Colin as he returns from America. Colin returns with Harriet and her sister Carla (Denise Richards), who greets Tony with a hug and a kiss. Natalie welcomes David back from his flight in view of the press, indicating that their relationship is now public. These scenes dissolve into footage of actual arrivals at Heathrow, as the screen is divided into an increasing number of smaller segments which form the shape of a heart.
All the stories are linked in some way, with the exception of Billy Mack and his manager, who are not acquainted with any of the other characters, but Billy appears frequently on characters' radios and TVs, his music video twice providing an important plot device for Sam's pursuit of Joanna; the pair also cross paths with the other characters in the closing Heathrow scene. John and Judy work with Tony, who is best friends with Colin, who works for a catering company that services the office where Sarah, Karl, Mia, and Harry work. Mia is friends with Mark, who runs the art gallery where the Christmas office party takes place. Mia also lives next door to Natalie. Mark is in love with Juliet and friends with Peter. The couple are friends with Jamie and Sarah. Harry is married to Karen, who is friends with Daniel, and Karen's brother is David, who works with Natalie. Harry and Karen's children (and thus David's niece and nephew), Natalie's siblings (and thus Mia's neighbours), and Carol's son are all schoolmates of Sam and Joanna. An additional plot that was dropped in editing concerned the children's headmistress (Anne Reid) and her dying lesbian partner (Frances de la Tour).
Initially, Curtis started writing the story with two distinct films in mind, featuring expanded versions of what would be two of the characters' storylines in Love Actually. He changed tack, however, having become frustrated with the process. Partly inspired by the films of Robert Altman as well as films such as Pulp Fiction, and inspired by the fact that Curtis had become "more interested in writing a film about love and what love sort of means" he had the idea of creating an ensemble film. The film initially did not have any sort of Christmas theme, although Curtis's penchant for such movies eventually caused him to write it as one.
Curtis's original concept for the film included 14 different scenarios, but four of them were cut (two having been filmed). The scene in which Colin attempts to chat up the female caterer at the wedding appeared in drafts of the screenplay for Four Weddings and a Funeral, but was cut from the final version. The music video for Billy Mack's song, "Love Is All Around", is a tribute to Robert Palmer's video, "Addicted To Love". Curtis has spoken negatively about the editing process for the film, which he labeled in 2014 as a "catastrophe" and "The only nightmare scenario that I've been caught in". The film was rushed in order to be ready for the 2003 Christmas season which he likened to "three-dimensional chess".
Ant and Dec played themselves in the film with Bill Nighy's character referring to Dec as "Ant or Dec". This refers to the common mistaking of one for the other, owing to their constant joint professional presence as a comedy and presenting duo. The veteran actress Jeanne Moreau is seen briefly, entering a taxi at the Marseille Airport. The soul singer Ruby Turner appears as Joanna Anderson's mother, one of the backing singers at the school Christmas pageant.
Curtis cast his daughter Scarlett in the film; she was given the choice of being an angel or a lobster, and played the part of Lobster number 2 in the nativity play, on the condition that she met Keira Knightley.
Most of the film was made on location in London, at sites including Trafalgar Square, the central court of Somerset House in the Strand, Grosvenor Chapel on South Audley Street near Hyde Park, St. Paul's Clapham on Rectory Grove, Clapham in the London Borough of Lambeth, the Millennium Bridge, Selfridges department store on Oxford Street, Lambeth Bridge, the Tate Modern in the former Bankside Power Station, Canary Wharf, Marble Arch, the St. Lukes Mews off All Saint's Road in Notting Hill, Chelsea Bridge, the OXO Tower, London City Hall, Poplar Road in Herne Hill in the London Borough of Lambeth, Elliott School in Pullman Gardens, Putney in the London Borough of Wandsworth, and London Heathrow Airport. Additional scenes were filmed at the Marseille Airport and Le Bar de la Marine. Scenes set in 10 Downing Street were filmed at the Shepperton Studios.
Following Tony Blair's resignation as Prime Minister, pundits and speculators commented on a potential anti-American shift in Gordon Brown's cabinet as a "Love Actually moment", referring to the scene in which Hugh Grant's character stands up to the US President. In 2009, during President Barack Obama's first visit to the UK, Chris Matthews referred to the president in Love Actually as an example of George W. Bush and other former presidents' bullying of European allies. Commenting on this, Mediaite's Jon Bershad described the U.S. president character as a "sleazy Bill Clinton/George W. Bush hybrid". In the scene in question, the swaggering president bullies the prime minister and then sexually harasses a member of the household staff. In September 2013, David Cameron made a speech in reply to Russia's comment that Britain was a small insignificant country, which drew comparisons with Hugh Grant's speech during the film.
|Soundtrack album by |
|Released||17 November 2003|
The film's original score was composed, orchestrated and conducted by Craig Armstrong.
|United Kingdom (BPI)||2× Platinum||600,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
The soundtrack album reached number one on the UK Albums Chart, and by Christmas 2018 it had spent 348 weeks on the Chart. It reached the top 40 on the US Billboard 200 in 2004 and ranked second on the Top Soundtracks chart. It achieved platinum record status in Australia.
The UK and US versions of the actual film contain two instances of alternative music. In the UK cut, the montage leading up to and continuing through the first part of the office party is set to the song "Too Lost in You", by the UK group Sugababes. In the US version of the film, this song is replaced with "The Trouble With Love Is", performed by the American singer Kelly Clarkson. In the UK version's end credit roll, the second song is a cover of "Jump (for My Love)", performed by Girls Aloud. In the US version, this song is replaced with "Too Lost in You", by Sugababes.
Other songs heard in the film, though not included on either soundtrack album, include "All Alone on Christmas" by Darlene Love and "Smooth" by Santana, the Paul Anka song "Puppy Love" performed by S Club Juniors, and "Bye Bye Baby" by the Bay City Rollers. "Joanna" by Scott Walker was featured in a scene deleted from the finished film.
The Working Title Films production, with a budget of $40-45 million, was released by Universal Pictures. It grossed $62,671,632 in the United Kingdom, $13,956,093 in Australia and $59,472,278 in the US and Canada. It took a worldwide total of $247,472,278.
While Love Actually received generally positive reviews in Britain, United States reviews were generally mixed. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 63% of critics gave the film a positive rating, based on 194 reviews, with an average score of 6.3/10. Its consensus states "A sugary tale overstuffed with too many stories. Still, the cast charms." On Metacritic, the film holds a 55/100 rating, based on 41 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Todd McCarthy of Variety called it "a roundly entertaining romantic comedy," a "doggedly cheery confection," and "a package that feels as luxuriously appointed and expertly tooled as a Rolls-Royce" and predicted "its cheeky wit, impossibly attractive cast, and sure-handed professionalism ... along with its all-encompassing romanticism should make this a highly popular early holiday attraction for adults on both sides of the pond". Michael Atkinson of The Village Voice called it "love British style, handicapped slightly by corny circumstance and populated by colorful neurotics".Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film out of four stars, describing it as "a belly-flop into the sea of romantic comedy ... The movie's only flaw is also a virtue: It's jammed with characters, stories, warmth and laughs, until at times Curtis seems to be working from a checklist of obligatory movie love situations and doesn't want to leave anything out ... It feels a little like a gourmet meal that turns into a hot-dog eating contest." Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today wrote "Curtis' multi-tiered cake of comedy, slathered in eye-candy icing and set mostly in London at Christmas, serves sundry slices of love--sad, sweet and silly--in all of their messy, often surprising, glory."
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly rated it B and called it "a toasty, star-packed ensemble comedy ... [that's] going to make a lot of holiday romantics feel very, very good; watching it; I felt cozy and charmed myself." Nev Pierce of the BBC awarded it four of a possible five stars and called it a "vibrant romantic comedy ... Warm, bittersweet and hilarious, this is lovely, actually. Prepare to be smitten." Carla Meyer of the San Francisco Chronicle opined "[it] abandons any pretext of sophistication for gloppy sentimentality, sugary pop songs and bawdy humor - an approach that works about half the time ... most of the story lines maintain interest because of the fine cast and general goodwill of the picture."
In his review in The New York Times, A. O. Scott called it "a romantic comedy swollen to the length of an Oscar-trawling epic - nearly two and a quarter hours of cheekiness, diffidence and high-tone smirking" and added, "it is more like a record label's greatest-hits compilation or a very special sitcom clip-reel show than an actual movie. ... the film's governing idea of love is both shallow and dishonest, and its sweet, chipper demeanor masks a sour cynicism about human emotions that is all the more sleazy for remaining unacknowledged. It has the calloused, leering soul of an early-60's rat-pack comedy, but without the suave, seductive bravado. ... It is disturbing to see [Emma] Thompson's range and subtlety so shamelessly trashed, and to see Laura Linney's intelligence similarly abused as a lonely, frustrated do-gooder. The fate of their characters suggests that women who are not young, pert secretaries or household workers have no real hope of sexual fulfillment and can find only a compromised, damaged form of love." In Rolling Stone, Peter Travers rated it two stars out of a possible four, saying "there are laughs laced with feeling here, but the deft screenwriter Richard Curtis dilutes the impact by tossing in more and more stories. As a director ... Curtis can't seem to rein in his writer. ... He ladles sugar over the eager-to-please Love Actually to make it go down easy, forgetting that sometimes it just makes you gag."
Although critics' reviews for Love Actually were mixed, the film is more popular among audiences and has even been discussed as an arguable modern-day Christmas classic.Christopher Orr of The Atlantic remains negative toward the work and described it as the least romantic movie of all time, considering its ultimate message to be, "It's probably best if you give up on love altogether and get on with the rest of your life."
The screenplay by Richard Curtis was published by Michael Joseph Ltd. in the UK and by St. Martin's Griffin in the US.
In 2017, Richard Curtis wrote a script for Red Nose Day which reunited several characters and picked up their storylines 14 years later. Filming began in February 2017, and the short film was broadcast on BBC One on 24 March 2017.