December DVD Pick — ‘Love Actually’ (2003)


As the song goes, ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year,’ but for 2016 that’s not exactly setting the bar very high, except perhaps when it comes to film.

The ‘Best of’ lists will soon be making the rounds and with them lots of recent DVD releases that you won’t want to miss. We’ll get to some of those next month, but for December I’m relegating my pick to holiday fare and recommending one of my perennial favorites, Love

If the usual array of Christmas specters, wingless angels and holiday miracles rings a little too saccharine, but you’re not quite ready to give up on the season, Love
may be just the remedy. It also doesn’t hurt that the film showcases some of Britain’s favorite actors, including a casualty of 2016, the late, great Alan Rickman.

offers a pleasant alternative to more traditional holiday movie fare, but without the crudeness of some other contemporary offerings. The film tells the stories of eight loosely related couples in London during the weeks before Christmas. Among them: Liam Neeson is a recent widower and now single father to his young stepson (Thomas Sangster). Emma Thompson is a housewife who suspects her husband (Alan Rickman) is cheating on her with his secretary. Colin Firth is a best-selling author, who retreats to the French countryside to work on his latest novel and nurse a broken heart. Billy Nighy is an aging rock star and former drug addict who’s trying to beat a boy band to make it back to the top of the pop charts with a really bad Christmas song, and last but not least, Hugh Grant is the newly elected Prime Minister who finds himself more than a little distracted by a member of his household staff. And that’s just a few of the highlights.

With so many plots and sub plots, there are about 20 characters to follow. It sounds like it should be a train wreck, and in many hands it would be, but with Richard Curtis at the helm it’s sheer perfection, a rare gem for the rom-com genre.

opens and closes with Hugh Grant’s narrative and a fantastic, ever growing collage of real-life footage of people meeting loved ones at Heathrow International Airport. The bookend narrative and images set the tone for the whole film, affirming a universal appeal.

Every character is in pursuit of love in one form in another. With just the right balance of comedy and heart, a fun soundtrack and a killer cast, the film smartly fires on all cylinders, leaving its audience cheering and utterly satisfied.  In addition to the actors mentioned above, the cast also includes Laura Linney, Rowan Atkinson and Billy Bob Thornton as well as several actors who have since become well known to Americans: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Gregor Fisher, Martin Freeman, Keira Knightley, Andrew Lincoln, Kris Marshall, Martine McCutcheon, Lucia Moniz, and Rodrigo Santoro.

Known previously as the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting
, Love Actually marked an auspicious directorial debut for Richard Curtis.

This movie reminds you that even during divisive times, love actually is really all around us.

Rent it, watch it with someone you love and enjoy a respite from 2016.

Reviewed by Michelle Keenan