‘Love Actually’ ten years on: irrelevant ephemera or pertinent modern fairy-tale?

Manish Binukrishnan explores the relevance of this festive classic for our generation

Coming to Oxford without having watched Love Actually, I felt trapped in a serious social paradigm. Having only just caught up on seven series of Game of Thrones in hope of boosting my small talk repertoire, I was dismayed to see that it wouldn’t be enough. Thankfully, I was given respite by the multiple Michaelmas viewings of Love Actually, and no one was able to discover my secret. Indeed, whilst the secret is now out, I write this in the hope that exam stress and high levels of alcohol consumption will help obfuscate this glaring tragedy from my peers come Hilary term.

Nonetheless, watching Love Actually ten years too late does offer a unique perspective. For example, since their performances in the film, many of the core actors have diversified their roles. Whilst those who watched Love Actually at its release (which was probably none of us) may have envisaged Liam Neeson as a surly heartthrob, after watching Taken 1,2,3 and 50 other carbon copies, it was somewhat jarring for me to see him change his weapon of choice from a pistol to a phone and defend his child, not from the threat of criminals, but the perils of love.

However, whilst I may have felt some initial confusion at Liam Neeson’s appearance, this was by far outweighed by my pleasure at seeing different actors coming together for the rom-com. I’m used to Alan Rickman killing Dumbledore, Thomas Brodie-Sangster solemnly guiding Bran Stark, and Chiwetel Ejelfor tackling far more serious subject matter. Viewing them all together with their inter-weaving storylines brings a sense of relatability to the concept of love, and reinforces the film’s idyllic charm.

Such motifs are further highlighted by the various narratives which help to illustrate the universality of romance and its problems. Seeing Hugh Grant’s charming and affable Prime Minister tackle his own romantic complications truly brings it home that anyone can find love. As someone whose previous rom-com repertoire was exclusively comprised of Mean Girls, I certainly could have done with taking lessons from Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s character (Sam) before I spent five weeks flailing around in Michaelmas Term.

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In my opinion, the film also stands out for its wit. Being the jaded film critic that I am now with my vast 18 years of experience, by not relying too heavily on contextual jokes it enables even a quasi-millennial like myself to empathise with timeless jokes like “the first lobster” in the Nativity play and our relatable friend the “cock-blocktopus”. These comedic moments help transcend age groups and tie together multiple generations who have all had to suffer through tragedies like this.

Of course, the film does have its flaws, and no amount of timelessness will fully obscure them. A lot of moments feel a little far-fetched, whether it’s Colin Firth’s Jamie simply asking a girl to marry him outright, or Sam somehow managing to evade countless airport security and so on. However, to be brutally honest, at a time like Christmas, as I try and put off worries about collections, my career and basically everything in life, it’s nice to suspend some belief and watch an uplifting modern fairy-tale like Love Actually. Whilst I don’t think I’ll be buying multiple copies anytime soon, I look forward to a lifetime of Love Actually themed Buzzfeed quizzes incorrectly diagnosing me on the basis of irrelevant facts.