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Love Actually

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Love Actually
Love Actually movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Curtis
Produced by Duncan Kenworthy
Tim Bevan
Eric Fellner
Debra Hayward
Liza Chasin
Written by Richard Curtis
Starring Hugh Grant
Liam Neeson
Colin Firth
Laura Linney
Emma Thompson
Alan Rickman
Keira Knightley
Martine McCutcheon
Bill Nighy
Rowan Atkinson
Music by Craig Armstrong
Cinematography Michael Coulter
Edited by Nick Moore
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • 7 November 2003 (2003-11-07) (limited)
  • 14 November 2003 (2003-11-14) (U.S.)
  • 21 November 2003 (2003-11-21) (UK)
Running time
136 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $45 million (USD)
£30 million[1]
Box office $246,942,017[2]

Love Actually is a 2003 British Christmas-themed romantic comedy film written and directed by Richard Curtis. 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 their tales progress.

Set primarily in London, 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.


The film begins with a voiceover from David (Hugh Grant) commenting that whenever he gets gloomy with 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:

Billy Mack and Joe[edit]

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' classic hit "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. The song does go to number one; after briefly celebrating his victory at a party hosted by Sir Elton John, Billy recognises that Joe needs affection and suggests that he and Joe celebrate Christmas by getting drunk and watching porn.

Juliet, Peter, and Mark[edit]

Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are wed in a lovely ceremony orchestrated and videotaped by Mark (Andrew Lincoln), Peter's best friend and best man. He promises no funny business on their wedding day, but as they walk down the aisle as husband and wife, a singer, choir and band appear performing "All You Need Is Love". Both Juliet and Peter believe that Mark dislikes her to the point when she has a favour to ask, Peter warns his best friend to be nice. Mark avoids seeing her so he will not have to show her his taped version of her wedding, but she stops by one day with pie and a snack hoping to get him to warm to her. She confesses that she knows they are not close, but asks him to give her a chance. When asked to show her the tape, he feigns ignorance of where it is, but Juliet quickly finds it after only a brief search. She pops it in and at first is happy to see a decent shot of her in her wedding dress as the professionals messed theirs up. As the video continues, she sees it's focused only on her and it causes her to stop talking. Left in an uncomfortable silence, Mark can only blurt out that he acts that way for 'self-preservation' before running out and leaving her alone. On Christmas Eve, the doorbells rings at Juliet and Peter's house. She runs down and opens the door, only to find Mark, carrying a boom box playing Christmas songs and large cue cards. The first one tells her to tell her husband that it's carol singers. One by one, the cards confess his love for her. After he is done, he walks away until Juliet runs after him to give him a quick (innocent) kiss and runs back inside. Continuing to walk away, Mark decides that it's time to get over her and move on with his life.

Jamie and Aurélia[edit]

Writer Jamie (Colin Firth) is pushed to Juliet and Peter's wedding by his girlfriend (Sienna Guillory) as she feigns illness. He returns between the ceremony and the reception to check on her, only to find his brother there. His presence at first is explained away, but the reality is revealed when she yells down to his brother that she wants to have sex a few more times before Jamie comes back. Crushed by this, Jamie withdraws to his French cottage where he meets Portuguese housekeeper Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz) who speaks only her native tongue. Despite their inability to communicate, they have similar personalities and become attached 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 his broken Portuguese in front he declares his love for her and proposes. She responds, "Thank you. That would be nice. Yes is being my answer" in broken English as the crowd erupts in applause.

Harry, Karen, and Mia[edit]

Harry (Alan Rickman) is the managing director of a design agency; Mia (Heike Makatsch) is his new secretary. Harry is comfortably married to his wife, Karen (Emma Thompson), who stays home to raise their children. Harry becomes increasingly aroused by Mia's overly sexual comments and actions at the office and does nothing to dissuade her. At the company Christmas party held at Mark's gallery, he not only inquires if Mark is her boyfriend, but dances closely with her. While at the shops, he calls Mia 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 he hands her a similarly shaped box to open on Christmas Eve, she is heartbroken to find it is a Joni Mitchell CD instead and struggles to hide her pain from her husband and children. She realises that the necklace was for someone else and asks him what he would do if he was her and if the supposed affair is just sex or more than sex (love). When he sees the harm he's done to his wife, he is truly sorry and calls himself a fool. She responds that not only has he made a mockery of their marriage but of her and the way she chose to live her life.

David and Natalie[edit]

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 and from the moment they meet, there is a spark that David continuously admonishes himself for. Even while doing her seemingly mundane tasks, Natalie is the best part of his day. One day while meeting with the U.S. President (Billy Bob Thornton), they run into Natalie and he makes some inappropriate comments to David about her body. Later when he leaves his office for something at the time she serves his tea and biscuits. When he returns, it appears that something untoward is happening. Natalie seems ashamed, but the President has a sly grin on his face. Due to this, when he gives his speech, David is uncharacteristically harsh while taking a stand against the President's bullying 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 hilarious 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 out the door to the multi-school 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 the two try to keep from being seen and watch the show from backstage, they finally kiss. All their hiding was for nothing because as the curtain rises, they are seen kissing by everyone.

Daniel, Sam, Joanna, and Carol[edit]

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 Natalie's nephew and Karen and Harry's children are in). After Sam feels that he missed his chance to make an impression on her, Daniel convinces Sam 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 for his whole life. Sam runs away from the airport security and says hi to Joanna, who then kisses him on the cheek. Meanwhile, Daniel, who previously mentioned admiring supermodel Claudia Schiffer, meets Carol, played by Schiffer, the parent of another of Sam's school mates.

Sarah, Karl, and Michael[edit]

Sarah (Laura Linney) first appears at Juliet and Peter's wedding, sitting next to her friend Jamie. She's an American working at Harry's graphic design company and has been in love for years with the company's creative director, Karl (Rodrigo Santoro). For unknown reasons they admire one another from afar, but neither is willing to make the first move. They finally connect at the Christmas party and he drives her home, where they finally kiss. However, before much else can occur, they are interrupted by a phone call from her brother, Michael, from the mental care facility where he's cared for. After taking so long to connect, it seems neither is prepared to try again. However, on Christmas Eve while they are they are both working late, Karl stops by to say good night. He tries to say more, but can't and simply wishes her a Merry Christmas. Right as he leaves, Michael calls and she spends that night with him, sharing her Christmas scarf.

Colin, Tony, and the American girls[edit]

After several blunders 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) he plans to go to America and find love there, convinced that his Britishness will be an asset to him in a foreign country. Landing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Colin meets Stacey (Ivana Miličević), Jeannie (January Jones), and Carol-Anne (Elisha Cuthbert), three stunningly attractive women who fall for his Basildon accent and invite him to stay at their home, where they are joined by roommate Harriet (Shannon Elizabeth).

John and Judy[edit]

John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) are professional body doubles 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, played by 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.


The epilogue is set one month later; the relationships of the characters have continued to evolve. Billy arrives with a gorgeous groupie in tow, and confirms to Joe that his hit song has launched his successful comeback. Juliet, Peter, and Mark arrive together to meet Jamie and his new 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 the gorgeous Harriet and her sister Carla (Denise Richards) who greets Tony with a hug and a kiss. Natalie aggressively 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 Airport, as the screen is divided into an increasing number of smaller segments which form the shape of a heart, as The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" plays on.


Interconnections between the Love Actually characters

Each story is 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 and also catered Peter and Juliet's wedding. 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 and her dying lesbian partner.



The title, Love Actually, was intended by Curtis as an abbreviated version of the statement "Love Actually Is All Around", a reference to the mega-hit pop song "Love Is All Around", performed by Wet Wet Wet in Curtis's breakthrough film Four Weddings and a Funeral. The song is also parodied as "Christmas Is All Around" throughout Love Actually.


Most of the movie was filmed 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.[3]

Ant and Dec played themselves in the film (in which Bill Nighy's character referred 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. Veteran actress Jeanne Moreau is seen briefly, entering a taxi at the Marseille Airport. Soul singer Ruby Turner appears as Joanna Anderson's mother, one of the backup singers at the school Christmas pageant.

Curtis' original concept for the film included 14 different scenarios, but four of them were cut (two after having been filmed).[4] 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.[5] The Music Video for Billy Mack's Song, "Love Is All Around", is a tribute to Robert Palmer's video, "Addicted To Love".[4] After the resignation of PM Tony Blair, pundits and speculators referred to 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 American president.[6][7][8] 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. In commenting on Matthews' view, Mediaite's Jon Bershad described the U.S. president character as a "sleazy Bill Clinton/George W. Bush hybrid".[9] In the scene in question, the swaggering president bullies the prime minister and then sexually harasses a member of the P.M.'s 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.[10]


Love Actually
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released November 17, 2003
Genre Film soundtrack
Label Universal, Island

The film's original music was composed, orchestrated, and conducted by Craig Armstrong. The soundtrack album reached the top 40 on the US Billboard 200 in 2004 and ranked second on the Top Soundtracks chart. It also achieved gold record status in Australia and Mexico.

Track listing
  1. "The Trouble with Love Is" by Kelly Clarkson
  2. "Here with Me" by Dido
  3. "Sweetest Goodbye/Sunday Morning" by Maroon 5
  4. "Turn Me On" by Norah Jones
  5. "Take Me As I Am" by Wyclef Jean and Sharissa
  6. "Songbird" by Eva Cassidy
  7. "Wherever You Will Go" by The Calling
  8. "Jump (for My Love)" by The Pointer Sisters in US / Girls Aloud in UK
  9. "Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell
  10. "All You Need Is Love" by Lynden David Hall
  11. "God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys
  12. "I'll See It Through" by Texas
  13. "Too Lost in You" by Sugababes
  14. "White Christmas" by Otis Redding

The film's director's cut also includes "Joanna" by Scott Walker. The UK release of the soundtrack features additional tracks by Craig Armstrong: "Prime Minister's Love Theme"; "Glasgow Love Theme"; and "Portuguese Love Theme". It also features "Sometimes" performed by Gabrielle.[11] The US disc replaced the Girls Aloud version of "Jump (for My Love)" with the Pointer Sisters' original recording. Additional songs heard in the film include Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You", as performed by actress Olivia Olson, "All Alone on Christmas" and "Smooth" by Santana. Although they were not included on the soundtrack album, the Paul Anka song "Puppy Love" performed by S Club Juniors, and "Bye Bye Baby" by the Bay City Rollers, are also heard in the film.

Also, the UK and US theatrical cut of the film contain two instances of alternate 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 American singer Kelly Clarkson. In the UK cut'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.


Box office[edit]

The Working Title Films production, budgeted at $45,000,000, was released by Universal Pictures. It grossed $62,671,632 in the United Kingdom, $13,956,093 in Australia[12] and $59,472,278 in the US and Canada. It took a worldwide total of $247,472,278.[13]

Critical response[edit]

While Love Actually received generally positive reviews in Britain, United States reviews were generally mixed. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 63% of critics gave the film a positive rating, based on 191 reviews, with an average score of 6.4/10. Its consensus states "'A sugary tale overstuffed with too many stories. Still, the cast charms."[14] On Metacritic the film holds a 55/100 rating, based on 41 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[15] In 2013, the movie was analysed on whether the movie was a modern day Christmas classic.[16][17][18]

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".[19] Michael Atkinson of The Village Voice called it "love British style, handicapped slightly by corny circumstance and populated by colourful neurotics".[20] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 12 out of 4 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."[21] 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."[22]

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 cosy and charmed myself."[23] 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."[24] Carla Meyer of the San Francisco Chronicle opined "[it] abandons any pretext of sophistication for gloppy sentimentality, sugary pop songs and bawdy humour – 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."[25]

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 demeanour 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-60s rat-pack comedy, but without the suave, seductive bravado."[26] 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."[27]

Christopher Orr of The Atlantic described Love Actually as the least romantic movie of all time.[28]

Awards and nominations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Love Actually (2003) - Box office / business". IMDb. Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  2. ^ "Love Actually". Archived from the original on 3 April 2014. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "Film locations for Film Locations for Love Actually". Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "How We Made Love Actually". The Guardian. 16 December 2013. 
  5. ^ Love Actually audio commentary
  6. ^ Sylvester, Rachel (6 June 2005). "''The Telegraph'', 6 June 2005". The Daily Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  7. ^ Sylvester, Rachel (23 May 2006). "''The Telegraph'', 23 May 2006". The Daily Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  8. ^ Stinson, Jeffrey (7 September 2006). "''USA Today'', 7 September 2006". USA Today. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "Chris Matthews Explains Republican Strategy With A Scene From ''Love Actually'', by Jon Bershad | 21 December 2010". 21 December 2010. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  10. ^ Kirkup, James (9 August 2013). "David Cameron's Love Actually moment as he defends Britain against 'small island' jibe". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  11. ^ "Love Actually Soundtrack on Amazon". Retrieved 13 March 2011. 
  12. ^ "Love Actually (2003) - International Box Office Results - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  13. ^ "''Love Actually'' at". Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  14. ^ "Love Actually (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2013-12-21. 
  15. ^ Love Actually at Metacritic
  16. ^ Orr, Christopher. "Love Actually: Still Awful". The Atlantic. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  17. ^ Orr, Christopher. "Love Actually Is the Least Romantic Film of All Time". The Atlantic. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  18. ^ Green, Emma. "I Will Not Be Ashamed of Loving Love Actually". The Atlantic. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  19. ^ By (24 October 2003). "''Variety'' review". Variety. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  20. ^ Michael Atkinson (4 November 2003). "''Village Voice'' review". Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  21. ^ "''Chicago Sun-Times'' review". 7 November 2003. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  22. ^ Wloszczyna, Susan (5 November 2003). "''USA Today'' review". USA Today. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  23. ^ Owen Gleiberman (26 July 2007). "''Entertainment Weekly'' review". Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  24. ^ Nev Pierce Updated 20 November 2003 (20 November 2003). "BBC review". BBC. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  25. ^ Meyer, Carla (7 November 2003). "''San Francisco Chronicle'' review". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  26. ^ A. O. Scott (7 November 2003). "''New York Times'' review". Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  27. ^ Rolling Stone review[dead link]
  28. ^ Ford, Denzil (2013-12-06). "Love Actually Is the Least Romantic Film of All Time - Christopher Orr". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2014-02-01. 
  29. ^ "Salaam-e-Ishq. Could I be more excited? Honestly?". Musings of the Obsessive Kind. dangermousie. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 

External links[edit]