Movie I’ve Seen: Christmas Edition

by cynthiarendon

I won’t be home during the holidays. On December 25, 2011, around five weeks from now, I will be with my spiritual family in the (possibly) thunderstorming and (definitely) perspiring South American jungle, celebrating Christmas with wide-eyed children I have never met. I am absolutely enthralled with this prospect, though I know I will miss (just a little) my normal holiday routines.

Thanksgiving has become my Christmas this year for this reason — I won’t be opening presents around a tree, but I will be eating a ton of sleep-inducing food, laughing with my birth family, and, of course, what would  the holidays be without watching, you guessed it . . . Christmas movies! 

There are a bunch of them out there . . . Home Alone, Elf, It’s A Wonderful Life . . . Jingle All the Way (you know you like it) . . . but if you are to watch just one holiday film this year, I would say to make it Love, Actually.

It’s funny, I have absolutely every reason to hate Love, Actually. It’s the original She’s Just Not That Into You; it’s Valentine’s Day with British accents. Or should I say a film with about 8–10 mini rom coms stuck into one movie. I should hate it. I have even written about how much I hate rom coms (it’s true, check my archives). So what gives?

Well, in truth, Love, Actually, though it really sounds like it’s a simpering ball of sap, isn’t. Love, Actually follows the lives of 8 different couples, along with some other folks, during the time leading up to Christmas in London, England. Sounds nauseating so far, I know. These couples, while not fully fleshed out (and how could they be in this 129 minute film?) do provide us with laughter, tears, and insight along the way, however. Like in any film, some scenes work better than others, but, to me, all work on some level.

The love portrayed in each story isn’t just romantic love, but the love between friends, really old friends, brother and sister, colleagues (of differing appropriateness levels), and basically serves as a reminder that love is actually all around us.

We see love portrayed unlike in many romantic comedies — it’s something that is fragile, something that can be easily bruised and wounded with just a seemingly small and imprudent gesture or word. It is difficult to be maintained, sometimes resulting in complete disillusionment. On the other hand, it shows love in its impulsive form — new, exciting, rash, passionate, oh, and stupid sometimes. Love is shown in its malleable form, essentially. Ahh, but don’t worry, the film still provides you with a sappy proposal and an “ambushing the girl at the airport to profess your love to her” scene. This is still a romantic comedy, after all.

The best thing about Love, Actually, I would say, is its opening and closing sequence. Cameras at Heathrow Airport capture real people at the Arrivals terminal greeting their loved ones. A simple and very real event that we’ve all been through, but that is easily forgotten.

I’ve spent a lot of time at airports in the last couple years, consumed with getting from point A to point B, sometimes annoyingly waiting for my ride to pick me up from the hellhole that the Arrivals terminal can be. So much so, that I seldom looked around to see those coming and going. Love, Actually has changed that, however. The film shows, in a dreamy pace, real people saying hello to family, friends, and newcomers with handshakes, tight hugs, pecks on the cheek, long kisses — which has made the airport a study of joy, hope, and, you guessed it, love for me. The final scenes of this film are just tender and really do make an everlasting, but subtle statement.

I understand that my time at the airport during the midst of the holiday season this year might not be the most enjoyable, but I will just have to remind myself to lift up my head and look around a bit to find that it’s true: love, actually, is all around.

a very cheesy, but sweet moment from love, actually. it’s the beatles, so I couldn’t resist.