Feeling all the feels: Love, Actually is holiday gold

Ahhh, Christmas … that joyful time of year when my family runs for cover. 

Is it Christmas baking? The prolific festive decorating of every surface? The incessant carols? No, it’s because for the 400th time in our lives together, I drag out Love, Actually — that timeless, cinematic Christmas romantic masterpiece that has warmed the hearts of millions since it was released 20 long years ago.

And when I say I drag it out, I mean I go down to the basement and look through our piles of DVDs, and hold it reverently as I walk back up to the only TV in the house which still has a DVD player, and spend about 30 minutes figuring out how to turn the thing on before I sit down to begin my annual solo viewing party.

Side note: for those of you under 30, a DVD is a small, round thing made out of plastic that, once you put it into a machine — called a DVD player — will play your movie. You can look it up on Wikipedia, or perhaps in the encyclopedia, and you’ll find it along with other groundbreaking, obsolete technology like the rotary-dial phone, the fax machine, and the Walkman.

But back to Love, Actually. My very favourite scene is the first one, narrated by protagonist Hugh Grant (who in the movie turns out to be the British Prime Minister — and if you think it’s completely Hollywood that they’d cast Hugh Grant as a world leader, just remember that it’s no crazier than the fact that Boris Johnson was ACTUALLY British PM). 

I love that scene because I have spent a great deal of my life in airports. And despite all my travels and the wonderful — and not so wonderful — places I’ve been, my favourite trip is always coming home to the people I love most in the world. So, watching the families and friends in the movie’s first scene as they reunite at the arrivals gate at Heathrow — the hugs and joy on their faces — well, cue the tears. And that’s about the stage at which my family starts crying, too — mostly from panic, with the clear understanding that if they don’t get out of the house ASAP, they’re stuck watching. 

So, this is probably the stage at which I should acknowledge that I understand not everyone likes Love, Actually. I feel badly for those people who are clearly misguided and wrong, but in the spirit of Christmas, I am willing to overlook this and forgive them.

Because what is not to like about Love, Actually? It gives you all the feels. It follows multiple story lines that describe all the big human emotions: love, loss, betrayal, loneliness, joy, humour. Even if you don’t see yourself in one of the characters (and I’ll admit there are a lot of them … like, A LOT of them), you can still empathize with their heartache or delight. You can still just lose yourself in two hours and nine minutes of mindless, gift-wrapped entertainment set during the emotion-enhancing Christmas season.

I mean, let’s be honest, how many movies have you watched that feature heads of state, porn stars, infidelity, death, teenage love, and Mr. Bean … at least movies on those topics that aren’t also a documentary about the Trump White House?

No, Love, Actually stands in a league of its own. It’s a movie that shows us that love comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be communicated in extravagant displays or quiet gestures. It’s not flawless, but sometimes it’s the imperfections that make it stronger. It can rip your heart out, or make that same heart grow three sizes. It can be unpredictable and messy, and sometimes you might even need language lessons, like Colin Firth’s bumbling character, to figure out how to express it to the person you want to marry. 

But in the end, love is at the heart of all the most important things in our lives — and even in this time of global upheaval and unrest, it’s important to remember that love is, actually, all around.