I have seen Love Actually far too many times.
When I first watched it at the age of 11, I distinctly remember thinking: “this is what a Christmas movie should be.”
Nine years later, I’m no longer convinced that Christmas movies are meant to be anything more than a cash grab for opportunistic production companies, but in spite of this, my fondness for the British 2003 rom-com persists.
Though my love for Love Actually can’t be shaken, with each watch I find some bothersome aspect of it that I’d been previously oblivious to. Unfortunately, in this disaster of a year, I have finally come to terms with a fact that I’ve desperately tried to ignore for far too long: some of the storylines in Love Actually are absolute garbage.
In light of this, I will now attempt to showcase Love Actually in all its glory — including the good, the bad, and the straight-up creepy — by ranking its nine storylines from worst to best.
9. Juliet, Peter and Mark
I’m not wasting any time diving into the straight-up creepy category, because that is the only reasonable way to describe Mark’s actions in this story. The situation isn’t too complex: Mark is in love with his best friend Peter’s wife Juliet (played by the stunning Keira Knightley), dooming him to a lifetime of yearning.
What makes this story so uncomfortable is the well-established fact that Mark has never even made an effort to get to know Juliet. In the story’s climactic scene, Mark tells Juliet via cue cards that to him, she is perfect — however, their sheer lack of communication makes the gesture feel more stalkerish than romantic.
8. Colin, Tony and the American girls
In the most shallow story in the film, Colin flies across the Atlantic Ocean convinced that his British accent will be enough to charm American women into sleeping with him — and he ends up being right! The worst part of this story is that Colin sucks so much that I didn’t want him to get laid at all, let alone by four supermodel-gorgeous women.
7. Jamie and Aurelia
Miraculously, Love Actually manages to have more than one storyline in which characters who don’t communicate fall in “love.” Jamie speaks English, and Aurelia speaks Portuguese, yet somehow over the course of a few months, they become infatuated with each other through … gazing into each other’s eyes or something?
Not even Colin Firth’s effortless charm could redeem this story for me.
6. John and Judy
John and Judy are body doubles for what seems to be the longest sex scene in the history of cinema, which gives them plenty of time to develop an adorable rapport. The contrast between their bold profession and their bashful demeanours make for a delightful, albeit simple, little love story.
5. Sarah, Karl and Michael
Sarah has been in love with her coworker Karl for years, but when the opportunity to elevate their relationship from friendly to intimate finally arises, her mentally ill brother interrupts with multiple phone calls.
I find this to be one of the more thought provoking and heartbreaking storylines in the film, as Sarah is forced to choose between her wants and the obligation she feels to her brother.
Her choice to abandon a night with Karl in favour of comforting her brother is understandable, but the lack of boundaries in their relationship poses the question: is what’s best for those you love always what’s best for you?
4. Harry, Karen and Mia
Emma Thompson is brilliant.
The scene in which her character Karen realizes her husband Harry, portrayed by the late Alan Rickman, is being unfaithful is perhaps the strongest in the entire film. She allows herself to fall apart for just a moment, before putting on a brave face for the sake of her family. Devastating as it may be, at least this story reminds us that while romantic love fades, one’s love for Joni Mitchell is eternal.
3. Billy Mack and Joe
Bill Nighy is hilarious as Billy Mack, a washed-up rockstar hoping to get his admittedly awful Christmas single to number one on the music charts.
When he succeeds, he’s stuck with the realization that he’d rather spend Christmas with his manager Joe than reliving his glory days at a glamorous party. His declaration that Joe ‘turned out to be the love of his fucking life’ is a surprisingly heartwarming reminder that sometimes platonic relationships end up being the most important of all.
2. David and Natalie
Is there anyone on the planet more endearing than Hugh Grant?
His portrayal of David, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, leads me to believe the answer is no. In this story, David falls for Natalie — a perfectly adorable member of his household staff. He’s aware that his feelings for Natalie are inappropriate, but they’re also strong enough to inspire him to jeopardize diplomatic relations with the United States.
This story has a few iffy points, such as Natalie's weight being a recurring punchline, but the chemistry between her and David makes it the best love story in the film.
1. Daniel and Sam
This story has it all: love, loss and a ridiculously cute 12-year-old Thomas Sangster.
Sangster plays Sam, who we assume is devastated by the recent loss of his mother, until the real cause of his anguish is revealed: he’s in love.
Sam is assisted in his mission to win the heart of his crush Joanna by his stepfather Daniel, and throughout the movie, we see the two bond as they adjust to life without Sam’s mom. The story ends with a killer rendition of ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ and an airport chase for the books.
Sam even manages to sum up the message of the entire movie in one sentence:
“Let’s get the shit kicked out of us by love.”