Love Actually is a great romcom, but that’s not all.
I confess. I am a sentimental jerk. I cry at weddings. I cry in films. I love romantic comedies. There’s not much better than a great feel-good romcom. Consequently, I really enjoyed this film. Whether it should be regarded in the upper echelon of film-making is not the question.
This is not a great film. Whilst the format, with juggling multiple storylines, is handled reasonably well, there is a certain unevenness to the story development, that leads to some of the tales seeming to be of less importance – although I’m not sure that was the intention. Certainly, toward the latter stages, the focus is on the uplifting, and the negative or sad or grotty is left behind. Maybe that was the plan, but it seemed to me that by introducing some ‘negative’ storylines, the director has an obligation to see them through, and give them the same depth as the ‘positive’ ones.
The cast, however, is amazing – not since Oceans Eleven has a cast of this depth been assembled. Neeson, Firth, Thompson, Grant, Laura Linney, Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy, Keira Knightley, Alan Rickman – even Ant and Dec appear! The talent on display is awesome, and is predominantly well utilised, although perhaps Linney and Knightley have been short-changed. A true ensemble production.
The trick is to make us care about the characters, and given the limited time with which to hook us into each story, Curtis has done an excellent job. Even if the film moves from one story to another, I cared about the next story as well, so didn’t mind. The resolutions of each tale are well handled, and the final ‘linking’ of the disparate tales is not heavy-handed or trite. A complicated task made to feel natural.
The soundtrack deserves special mention. After watching this I downloaded several tracks, notably ‘Songbird’ by Eva Cassidy, and ‘Both Sides Now’ by Joni Mitchell. However, all the instrumental pieces fit well, and the songs with lyrics match their scenes perfectly. (The DVD has an excellent special feature documentary regarding the song choices and how they were made, including which other songs were considered and discarded for various scenes).
This is at times moving, critical and insightful, but always fun. I have enjoyed watching this multiple times, and am still affected by the relationship between Neeson and his step-son. Whilst it’s not perfect, if you enjoy feel-good or romantic comedy, there is a lot to satisfy here.Rating: