Several love stories run parallel in London as Christmas approaches. Newly elected Prime Minister David, a single man, is getting accustomed to the job when he meets Natalie, the Number 10 tea-lady. He is immensly attracted to the young woman and tries to keep his mind on matters of state and the impending state visit of the American President. Pop star Billy Mack, once a chart regular, is now in his forties and all but forgotten. He has the idea of coming up with a Christmas single, Christmas Is All Around Us,
a calculating variation on Love Is All Around Us.
His long suffering manager Joe despairs, and threatens to stop handling Billy if he goes ahead. Daniel is trying to get over the fact that his wife has recently died, and tries to offer encouragement to Sam, his eleven year old stepson, who has an overwhelming crush on an American classmate who is to return to the States for the holidays. Harry, an office manager, is involved in an initially reluctant affair with his secretary, instigated by her. He buys her an expensive necklace which is found by his wife Karen who returns it to its' hiding place, assuming it is for her. One of Harry's staff, Sarah, has a crush on a work colleague, and decides that she will definitely make her move on him at the office Christmas party. Jamie, a writer, discovers that his long-standing girlfriend has been repeatedly unfaithful so, using finishing his next novel as an excuse, he travels to his French cottage, only to fall for Aurelia, his Portuguese cleaner. Mark seems to be unhappy with the marriage of his best friend Peter to Juliet, and obviously cannot tell him it is because he has fallen in love with her himself. Catering assistant Colin cannot seem to find a girlfriend in London, so on impulse decides to try his luck in the US, buying a ticket to Milwaukee. John, a movie extra, has agreed to be a stand-in for a major star in a nude scene, and once there meets his opposite number, a pretty girl called Mia. Prime Minister David becomes more and more attracted to Natalie and is angered when the US President turns out to be a sexist, and offends her while she serves him tea. He has her reassigned before denouncing the President in a speech before he leaves the country and is then driven to Natalie's home to tell her what he feels for her. Billy Mack's single becomes the Christmas number one and he and Joe spend Christmas together, toasting their success. Daniel encourages his stepson Sam to tell his schoolfriend that he cares for her, and the boy races to Heathrow to try to catch her before she leaves. Karen doesn't receive the necklace and soon realises what is happening, but decides to forgive Harry. Sarah discovers that the man she adores feels the same way about her, but realises she cannot commit to him since she has to look after her mentally ill brother, who needs her more. Returning to London, writer Jamie realises that he wants to be with Aurelia, so rapidly returns to France to be with her. Mark, tormented by what he feels, declares his love for Juliet before walking away, resigned to never seeing her again. Within hours of landing in Milwaukee, Colin finds himself in the company of three attractive and vivacious American girls, all of whom love his English accent, and after their unorthodox manner of meeting, John and Mia arrange a date.
From the beginning of Love Actually
it seems that Richard Curtis is determined to plunder his own biggest hit for this, his directorial debut, using many of the same elements as Four Weddings And A Funeral
as well as a cruel and grating re-recording of the film's Love Is All Around Us,
which pummelled one into submission through being at the top of the charts for a year or so, or so it seemed, after the film was released. Curtis has certainly given himself a task for his first film in the director's chair, juggling nine distinct storylines, and inevitably some of these get more attention and screentime than others, the emphasis obviously going towards those featuring Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman and Bill Nighy. Curtis wants to add some gravity to his stories, and a prologue dealing with the phone calls and text messages sent by those in the World Trade Centre on September 11th may be seen by some as uncomfortably manipulative, and while some of the stories do not exactly have a happy ending, Laura Linney's Sarah realising she has to devote herself to her mentally-ill brother, and Andrew Lincoln's Mark realising he is in love with his best friend's wife. But otherwise there are generally happy conclusions, even Harry's wife Karen decides to forgive his indiscretions. Curtis has decided to make a feelgood movie at all costs, and those looking for a serious love story should realise that this is very much in fantasy territory most of the time, and ruthlessly aimed at the largest possible audience.