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'Wait. They haven't... spoken.' A very 2021 recap of Love Actually.

When I went to press play on Love Actually on a rainy, sleepy Sunday afternoon at the beginning of December, I made myself a promise: you will not ruin this.

There is nothing, nothing that can take away from the magic that is a surprise performance of 'All You Need Is Love' at a wedding - even the best man being somewhat of a predator. 

There is nothing that can ruin an awkwardly translated proposal from Colin Firth to a young Portuguese woman - even the fact that they've not yet had a conversation. Of any substance. In a common language. 

'My favourite food is meatballs.' Image: Universal. There is nothing that can ruin a romantic kiss between the Prime Minister and his former employee - EVEN THE FACT that he fired her because a) he found her attractive, and b) the US President harassed her in the workplace.

No. Nothing can ruin Love Actually for me. But a 2021 perspective can s**t all over it. Like La Niña on our outdoor Christmas plans.

Re-watching Love Actually as a cynical adult with a better understanding of the type of footage that's appropriate to take at a wedding, and the dangers of running past airport security with no boarding pass, has left me with thoughts.

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So, this is my very 2021 recap of Love Actually.

We open with a montage of real people reuniting with loved ones at the airport. Hugh Grant's voiceover tells us that love is all around, which should be an entirely unproblematic, wholesome message. But you know what is also all around an airport in 2021?

New variants of COVID-19. 

'Actually while I'm at it I think you two should quarantine. Individually. For 14 days.' Image: Universal.  This beautiful scene has been tainted because every time I see anyone touch I just want to yell about infectious diseases and dob them in to Norman Swan. 

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Ladies. It's the virus. It's shedding. Image: Universal.  Five minutes in, we get our only bit of dialogue between two women that isn't about a man. Except it's not two women - it's Emma Thompson's character Karen talking to her daughter Daisy about her role as 'first lobster' in the nativity play and you need to contact the school because they're taking the piss. 

But shut up because it's Keira Knightley's wedding and she's wearing a hideous cardigan.

...Yes. Image: Universal.  

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Peter's best man Mark (why does everyone in this movie have the most generic, forgettable names) organises a surprise musical performance and if I don't get this exact spectacle on my wedding day I will lose it. 

What I don't want, however, is that same man creating a tape solely for him to watch at home. Alone. In private.

'Hey can I see some of the footage you took at my wedding?' 'No'. Image: Universal.  

It feels... criminal. 

Also criminal?

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This hat.

Fact: If you wear an ugly woollen hat, you will not get a happy ending. Image: Universal.  

On a related note - how are these two characters connected? They have precisely nothing further to do with each other after this moment. 

We move on to meet Colin, whose main personality trait is insulting British women for not wanting to have sex with him. 

Cool.

Meanwhile, Colin Firth's character, Jamie, comes home to learn that his partner is cheating on him with his brother. So he travels to France to work on his book (on a typewriter... in 2003), and is personally delivered what can only be described as a servant. 

Is it though? Image: Universal.  Back in the UK, Liam Neeson's character ('Daniel' apparently - again with the forgettable names???) is very convincingly grieving his late wife, Joanna. But there's a more important issue at hand. His stepson is in love with a girl he's never spoken to. 

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What shall he do? Shall he attempt to speak to her? Get to know her?

No.

Instead, he will learn to play the drums. Because girls like musicians. Like this guy:

'When I grow up I want to be just like that man. Who keeps defacing public property on the television.' Image: Universal.  

Over on Downing St, Hugh Grant is the Prime Minister and I've never believed a character so whole-heartedly. 

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He's introduced to his staff and by the time Natalie - whose role doesn't have a... name - has finished saying 'Hi David, I mean Sir. S**t I can't believe I just said that.. oh piss it,' he's fallen completely, inexplicably, inappropriately in love with her. 

When you can take on the President on a national stage but can't trust yourself to keep your d*ck in your pants. Image: Universal.  

In a meeting, David asks, 'who do you have to screw around here to get a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit?' and yeah. Natalie walks into the room. 

Did this age well? No. 

Would I screw literally anyone for a chocolate biscuit? Maybe.

Watch: The original trailer of Love Actually. Post continues after video.


Video via Universal. 
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But that's not the point. 

Every time David interacts with Natalie he bangs his head on his desk/talks to himself/facepalms OR calls Margaret Thatcher a saucy minx which feels presumptuous. 

But shut up because Keira Knightley would like some footage of her wedding but she's about to discover it's a... wank tape. That does not, however, excuse this hat:

'Problem solved.' Image: Universal. 

The tape is solely close ups of Keira Knightley's face which we understand but do not condone. 

Juliet says to Mark, 'But... you never talk to me. You always talk to Peter. You don't like me.' 

Eugh silly Juliet. He doesn't like you. He loves you. And in this movie that means he has no interest in getting to know you whatsoever.

Much like our good friend Jamie, who's currently watching his servant jump in the lake in her underwear to retrieve the ONLY existing pages of his novel.

Colin pls. Image: Universal. 

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Over in an ambiguous workplace, there's a woman who won't stop licking her lips and touching her vagina. Because she wants to have an affair with Alan Rickman (Harry).

But Harry is too distracted telling his employee Sarah to please pursue his other employee, Karl. Sexually. 

Listen to CANCELLED, on Love Actually. Post continues after podcast.

We watch as Sarah's phone rings, relatively often, and then we get to the office Christmas party. Karl ultimately comes home with Sarah, but as they're hooking up, her phone rings. This is when her secret/fatal flaw/greatest weakness is revealed:

She has a brother who calls sometimes. 

Her brother Michael is mentally unwell and she's his primary caregiver. Her phone rings a total of TWO TIMES before Karl asks her not to answer??? Like I'm sorry Sir, do you have somewhere you need to be? Where you can't just wait a f**king second?

Karl would be very disappointed with everyone's 2021 technology addiction. Image: Universal.  

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But thankfully, not all men have to deal with such struggles.

In America, Colin has met four women who a) love British men, b) share a bed, and c) sleep naked because they can't afford pyjamas. When he eventually returns home to Britain, he even brings a spare woman home for his friend. Lovely.

Speaking of America, the US President did sexually harass Natalie and now the British Prime Minister has had to... fire her? And hire an older woman? Who no one could ever possibly find attractive?

Sir you sound a lot like a... predator. Image: Universal.  

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But then it's Christmas, and David receives a postcard from Natalie. Apologising for the time she was sexually harassed in the workplace.

With a renewed interest, David orders a car (probably paid for with tax payer dollars) to drive him in the vague direction of Natalie's home. Does he know exactly where she lives? Of course not. They've had about three and a half conversations in total. 

He finds her at home, where her family call her 'plumpy' and pause.

This entire movie we've been gaslighted and I'm very confused. We've had a total of three references now to Natalie's weight ("chubby girl", "huge thighs") and it would appear that if you are not 17-year-old Keira Knightley in this film, you have a weight issue?

Join us! Image: Universal. 

Natalie and David go to the local school's Christmas concert, where they run into David's sister, Karen, who has not been having a good time. 

Not only has she had the mortifying experience of having to create a lobster costume for her daughter's role in the nativity play, but her sneaky husband (Alan Rickman AKA Severus Snape) bought her a s**t Christmas present. And gave the good one to the sexy girl in his office who wore literal devil horns to the Christmas party.

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Like she definitely already had that Joni Mitchell album?? Because she's a massive fan? Also, she could've just downloaded all the songs from LimeWire?

'You could've bought me a brand new iPod. I hear those things are cool.' Image: Universal. 

But David doesn't care because he's in the midst of trying to pursue a romantic relationship with a former junior employee.

Speaking of employees, Jamie has returned home for Christmas, only to realise that he's madly in love with the Portuguese housekeeper he is yet to speak to. He returns to France, goes to her home, and then demands to be taken to Aurelia at work. 

When he arrives, Aurelia's father thinks Jamie has come for his other daughter. Which is meant to be a joke. Because his other daughter isn't Aurelia's size. AND WHY WOULD A MAN WANT A WOMAN WHO DIDN'T LOOK LIKE AURELIA HA. 

As they're making their way to Aurelia's work, her sister shouts, "father is about to sell Aurelia as a slave to this Englishman," and she's not... wrong.

Anyone? Image: Universal.  

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Jamie proposes to Aurelia, without knowing a) how old she is, b) any of her values and/or beliefs, or c) what her hobbies are, when she's not... employed by him. 

Back in Britain, on Juliet's street, a man who refuses to speak to her has turned up unannounced at her home. With cardboard.

He tells Juliet to lie to her husband and say it's carol singers and what was his plan if his best friend - and not his wife - had answered the door?

The posters he prepared earlier explain that he will love Juliet forever, EVEN WHEN SHE GETS OLD, and say: to me, you are perfect.

Mate. Come on now. Image: Universal.  

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Has he had a proper conversation with her, ever? Unclear. But does he have a lot of footage of her face and/or body in his home? Absolutely. 

Back at the Christmas concert, Sam has played the drums (quite unexceptionally, may I add) while Joanna has turned out to be a professional singer who definitely needs to go on the 2003 equivalent of The Voice.

When the concert ends, Sam's stepdad Daniel decides they'll follow her and her family to the airport.

Not it.  

Once there, Daniel encourages Sam to run through airport security with no boarding pass and you just can't do that post 9/11?

Sam reaches Joanna and she's like 'hey what are you doing here, are you also catching an international flight?' and he's like 'no I just decided that instead of speaking to you at school on literally any occasion, I'd chase you through the airport and delay all these planes while they investigate the security breach.'

It's incredibly romantic.

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But before I get too grinch-like about Love Actually, I have an important caveat:

It is a movie, after all. It's fiction. And fiction is ultimately meant to be a lie that reveals some truth. For example: That every school has a majority of students who dress as lobsters at the school play, and then one kid who’s actually ridiculously talented. 

'She wasn't even a very good lobster.' Image: Universal.  

There's a lot about Love Actually that would probably be different in 2021. 

Masks at the airport. Hopefully a few love stories that aren't white and straight. Women being allowed to say more than 27 words before they get punished in the love department - like Emma Thompson and Laura Linney's characters. 

But that's why humans keep creating. And interrogating. And creating again. 

Nothing will actually ruin Love Actually for me. 

Even the fact that it doesn't really appear to be about love at all. 

For more from Clare Stephens and her video recaps, you can follow her on Instagram. You can listen to Cancelled on Apple or Spotify.

Feature Image: Mamamia + Universal Pictures.  

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