For us Americans, it is now past Thanksgiving and that means all things Christmas. It’s time to celebrate with some Christmas music, a warm fire in the fireplace, some hot cocoa, and a Christmas film to finish the night off right. In the spirit of the season, I’ll go back to my favorite Christmas films each Friday leading up to December 25.
First up, my favorite film to watch this time of year: Love Actually. I know, not A Christmas Story or even It’s a Wonderful Life. Don’t get me wrong, those are classics. But Love Actually has a special place in the Christmas corner of my heart. It is the first film I go to when I want to get in the Christmas spirit. Let’s start with the first lines of the film:
Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.
So yes, it is about love not Christmas, but isn’t that the spirit of the Holidays? Thanksgiving and Christmas are about being with loved ones and celebrating being together. Sure, big businesses want you to think it’s all about presents and spending more money than you actually have, but as you get older you realize that’s not what’s most important this time of year.
And this one’s got a bit for everyone: the aging pop star making a comeback, the young Brit who goes to America in search of love, the man in love with his best friend’s newlywed wife, the wife whose husband is tempted by his secretary, the woman secretly in love with her co-worker, the writer whose wife has just cheated on him, and the man re-connecting with his young son after the death of his wife. Okay, that doesn’t necessarily sound very cheery, but I promise the film is touching, funny, and charming.
Then there’s the cast. Romantic comedy staple Hugh Grant is perfect for his role, and then there’s Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Kiera Knightley, Emma Thompson, Martin Freeman, Andrew Lincoln and Chiwetel Ejiofor. With a cast like that, how can you go wrong? Bad question, because often times filmmakers focus too much on the cast and not enough on the actual film. But in this case it works.
Not all of the stories about love end well in the film, but they all show us some aspect of it. And considering this is its ten year anniversary and people still love the film, they must have gotten something right. I recently read an interview by Entertainment Weekly with Andrew Lincoln reflecting on the film and his role in it, and rightfully so because one of his scenes is one of the most memorable. He stands outside Kiera Knightly’s character’s front door posing as a caroler and confesses his love for her.
So there you have it, my top Christmas film. It doesn’t have anything to do with the religious or commercial aspects of this time of year, but it does manage to perfectly capture the spirit of the season. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. Even though it is a religious holiday, what I enjoy about it is simply being with those I love and that, ultimately, is the premise behind Love Actually. Find those you love, show them how you feel, and just enjoy spending time with them. Even better if there’s snow outside, but maybe that’s asking too much.