Why Love Actually Is Actually the Best Christmas Film

It's time to fess up about your love for this movie.

Love Actually
Love Actually

It’s December, which means film fans all over the world are having the classic annual debate: what is the ultimate Christmas movie? Well, I think it’s now time to accept that there is one definitive answer to this age-old question: Love Actually.

I know this is a heated debate, and there will be plenty of people out there who will strongly disagree with me. They’ll put forward weak arguments for ‘classics’ like one of the thousands of versions of A Christmas Carol or claim that mindless comedies like Elf deserve to wear the crown.

But, sadly, these people are wrong. No film sums up the spirit of Christmas in such an emotional, impactful and enjoyable way. There is simply no room for debate here, because this is the greatest Christmas film of all time.

Love Actually outperforms popular Christmas picks like Elf because it is actually funny (yeah, I said it). The film provides a constant stream of hilarious moments that have become ingrained into popular Christmas culture over the last 15 years, with its stellar cast nailing the comedic beats with joyous ease. I recently watched Last Christmas, and while this movie tried its best to add a feeling of festive comedy, it made me realise just how impressive and iconic Richard Curtis’ script is.

Whether it is Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister cheerfully dancing around Number 10, Colin Firth’s Jamie producing one of the most grammatically incoherent proposals in cinematic history, or Rowan Atkinson’s store assistant leisurely wrapping a present for the adulterous Harry (excellently portrayed by Alan Rickman), this film manages to produce moment-after-moment of genuine amusement.

The writing is exquisitely subtle and remarkably effective, and is brilliantly executed by the cast – without the need for the over-the-top physical performances seen in the likes of Elf. Christmas films should be funny and uplifting, but should not have to rely on silly slapstick humour. Love Actually provides fun without the foolishness.

At the same time, the film provides moments of real emotion through its intelligently-constructed multi-storyline narrative. With so many different subplots, the film could easily become convoluted or messy, but each story is original and unique, adding something different while staying true to the overall theme.

There are certain storylines that are truly impactful, bringing even the most cold-hearted people (ie. me) close to tears. The betrayal of Emma Thompson’s Karen by Harry is devastating. Thompson’s incredibly raw performance effectively demonstrates the true stakes of the character’s actions, with the realisation of their failing marriage hitting home as the camera slowly pans across their family photos and the couple’s memories.

The emotional impact is equally strong for Sarah (Laura Linney), whose love life is crushingly brought to a halt by the dependence of her mentally ill brother, Michael (Michael Fitzgerald). The scene of the two together is heartbreaking, vividly showing the effect that these issues can have not just for the individual but for those closest to them.

And who can forget the iconically brutal tale of Andrew Lincoln’s Mark, whose “wasted heart” longs for his best friend’s newlywed bride, Juliet (Keira Knightley). Sure, this may provide the most cringeworthy couple of minutes in cinematic history, as Mark slowly confesses his love through the use of giant, overly-dramatic cue cards, but no one can deny that they didn’t feel at least a little teary-eyed during the slightly nauseating encounter.

Yet if this seems a bit too heavy for a Christmas tale, the film is also undeniably uplifting, demonstrating the real joy and sentiment that this time of year provides.

Billy Mack’s (Bill Nighy) realisation that his tour manager, Joe (Gregor Fisher), is really his lifelong best friend provides a refreshingly honest take on unconditional love that does not rely on soppy romance or big romantic gestures. Jamie’s proposal to Aurelia (Lucia Moniz) is the complete opposite, providing the kind of heartwarming, sugary final act that makes rom-coms so great. And Sam’s (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) character arc shows that hard work can help you achieve anything – even learning to play drums to an inexplicably high standard in a puzzlingly short amount of time.

The film’s final scene, as cheesy as it is, sums up the true spirit of Christmas. There are thousands of stories to be told; each of them unique and different, some happy and some sad. But whatever our story, we can get through with the people around us. That, to me, is what Christmas is all about, and no film displays this better than Love Actually. It’s time for everyone to admit that this is actually the ultimate Christmas film. It is a Christmas fact that cannot be denied.

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