Love Actually Themes

Love Actually Themes


Eponymous to it’s title, love appears in many different forms in this Richard Curtis film: familial, platonic, passionate, and unrequited. Each storyline within the movie focuses on a person finding love, or the love that a couple currently have for each other evolving, or breaking down. A sense of familial love is displayed throughout the storyline of Sam, and his stepfather Daniel, of whom discover the joys of love in their own relationship whilst attempting to make new beginnings after the death of Sam’s Mother. The movie is not completely centered on romantic love either. Platonic love is common between the characters, who are often interconnected. This kind of love is especially touching when unexpected, such as when Billy Mack leaves a party at Elton John’s house in order to spend time with his manager, Joe. Curtis also moves beyond the boundaries of monogamous love, and presents the dangers of love when passionate and inappropriate. Two of the storylines especially help to identify the boundary between what is appropriate and not. Mia’s passionate love (or arguably, lust) for Harry, and his encouragement of her advances, is inappropriate as Harry is married. Only slightly different, Mark’s love for Juliet only just classes as appropriate. She is married, yet he accepts that no extra-marital affair would ever be possible with her. Despite many different types of relationship, the narration and scenes of love at Gatwick airport center the film’s message around a heart-warming concept: that ‘love really is all around’.


Despite strong themes of love, a sense of loss also perpetrates the otherwise uplifting film. The most evident sense of loss is in the death of Daniel’s wife, and Sam’s Mother, Joanna, at the beginning of the film. The audience witness the adjustment that Daniel has to make to life without his wife, and his friend, Karen, regularly comforts him. This loss also weighs heavily on the young Sam, of whom distracts himself by his affections for a girl in his class, also named Joanna. Yet loss not only exists through death, but as unrequited love. Despite Juliet’s happiness in her marriage to Peter, Mark must exist in a reality where the woman he loves is married to his best friend. The question remains as to which type of loss is more cruel. Daniel must begin the process of mourning, whilst Mark must live with a constant reminder that Juliet did not choose to love him. Therefore it seems that love cannot exist without also love lost.

Good Will

As the film is centered on Christmas, there is an almost obligatory sense of good will surrounding each character’s actions. The Prime Minister’s housekeeper, Natalie, sends David a Christmas card that reads ‘and if you can’t say it at Christmas, when can you say it, eh?’. This suggests that these grand gestures of love and good will are only possible at Christmas time, and it is a certain magic in the air that inspires them. An especially important, yet illusive, character is Rufus, played by Rowan Atkinson. In the original script, he was meant to appear as a Christmas angel, however this idea did not make the final cut. Yet there are still hints of this at the end of the movie, where the character disappears in Gatwick airport. Rufus is a jewelry salesman, and his exuberant gift-wrapping almost reveals to Harry’s wife his affair. Additionally, at the end, Rufus distracts the Stewardess at the airport, allowing Sam to run through security and tell Joanna how he felt before she left to America. It is perhaps this time of year, and the festive feeling, that contributes to the sense that others help others in this film.


Passionate, or romantic, love are not the only types of relationship present in Love Actually. Platonic relationships and friendship are also important, either as a beginning of a relationship, or as a support system for a character. A particularly comedic friendship duo is Colin and Tony. Tony spends the majority of the movie convincing Colin that going to America to find an attractive girlfriend is ridiculous. It is at the end where Colin is the character laughing, when he returns to the UK with an all-American, ridiculously attractive girlfriend. Another, more unlikely, pairing is the rocker Billy Mack, and his manager Joe. Whilst Joe spends a lot of time trying to stop Billy from swearing on TV and promoting drugs to kids, they unite at the end with a genuine sense of friendship. Characters from different storylines also feature friendships: Karen and Harry, Natalie and Mia, Jamie and Peter. Friendship is therefore an intrinsic necessity for Love Actually. When romantic relationships fail, or falter, it is friendships that provide the necessary support.


In a film based wholly on different types of love, the theme of betrayal penetrates the happy bubble of Love Actually. The largest betrayal, and one felt most keenly throughout the movie, is Harry forsaking Karen for the younger, sexier Mia. Whilst the movie is speculative of whether anything happened, the producers later released a statement confirming that Harry and Mia had a fully-fledged sexual relationship, a definite betrayal. It is felt the most keenly by the audience, perhaps as Karen –portrayed by Emma Thompson –is the easiest to connect with: she is dependable, a committed Mother and trusts Harry completely. At the end of the movie, there is uncertainty as to this happy ending. Karen states she is ‘glad to have’ Harry back home, but never seems to accept him wholly back in to her heart. This allows the film to take a slightly darker turn away from the romantic comedy genre, and suggest that betrayal in love leaves an ultimately deeper scar with no room for a happy ending.


Despite the romantic comedy genre, circumstantial difficulties still invade the storylines of Love Actually’s characters. Firstly, professional obligation of the prime minister discourages his feelings towards his housekeeper, Natalie. To start a relationship in his workplace, especially as one of the most important men in Britain, would be unprofessional. Yet, this is overcome in the epilogue, where Natalie is seen greeting David in front of many cameras. Perhaps the most heart-breaking storyline , then, is Sarah’s, whose obligation stems from familial responsibility and kindness. She is prevented from a relationship with her dream man, Karl, due to the commitments she has with her disabled brother. Unlike other storylines, Sarah cannot overcome this difficulty, and her and Karl are left to live separately. Therefore, whilst the other storylines all seem to come to a sense of new beginnings, Sarah is left without any sense of future hope.

Overcoming Barriers

As a film centered on good will and love, the script wouldn’t be complete without a large dose of triumph at overcoming barriers. The most triumphant scene is based loosely on reality, and involves Britain’s relationship with the sometimes-dominating America. After the President gropes Natalie, David’s love interest, the Prime Minister decides spontaneously at a press conference that Britain will not be bullied by American any longer. A sense of national pride is mixed with the triumph of David overcoming his cowardice in proclaiming his feelings to Natalie, and overcoming a larger, political motive. Yet the movie is not limited to overcoming professional barriers. There is also the more romance-centered issue of Jamie only speaking English, and Aurelia only Portuguese. They still manage to communicate via sign language, and the subtitles reveal the possibilities of their conversations where they could potentially connect. A Richard Curtis film would also not be complete without this issue of linguistic communication being overcome in a romantic and dramatic setting. Jamie flies to Portugal, and in front of a restaurant of people proposes to Aurelia in very bad Portuguese. Love is perhaps ever the more precious when it cannot be immediately communicated, and must first suffer through the difficulties of silence.

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