Love Actually – the modern Christmas Classic that’s right up there with Elf, Home Alone and Miracle on 34th Street at the top of my festive film repertoire. Shouting “I’m Colin Frissell and I’ve got a big KNOB” along with baby-faced Kris Marshall is as much a Yuletide tradition for me as Bucks Fizz for breakfast. (Yes, I do that. Happy hour’s all day on the 25th…)
Watching love blossom at Christmas time and rooting for the ‘guy to get the girl’ is what makes the film a firm, festive favourite, but it’s not Jamie and Aurelia, the Prime Minister and his Natalie, Rowan Atkinson and that damn sprig of lavender, little Sam and the American girl with a better voice than 2014 Mariah that makes me truly appreciate the magic of love and Christmas. It’s Sarah and Karl’s story that really resonates with me.
Apart from crying to the sound of Joni Mitchell narrating Emma Thompson’s marriage breakdown (that necklace was vile anyway!) it’s the all consuming commitment Sarah has to her brother in care that leaves me wracked with sobs and I’m drawn more and more to this heartbreaking yet inspiring story each year. The reality is, Sarah is a satellite Carer – she doesn’t live with her brother but that doesn’t stop her from feeling solely responsible for his general and emotional well-being, which is something I understand all too well.
Caring is something that has to be experienced to be understood. I can’t count how many time I screamed at my screen for Sarah to turn her phone onto silent (that ringtone though…). “Just ignore it! Have sex with Karl the Bronzed Adonis” I used to shout. But it really isn’t that easy, even when you have a half naked, perfectly toned Brazilian in your bed (not that I’ve ever had the pleasure…). You feel entirely responsible for this person that depends on you completely; they come first and, if you’re honest, you’re glad that you’re there to provide the loving care they so desperately need.
Although Christmas is generally a time to get wrapped up (badum-tish!) in magic and wonder, it’s also the perfect time to evaluate life and love, something that the Sarah and Karl story encapsulates perfectly. Life isn’t straightforward and love isn’t always found under the mistletoe at the office Christmas party; sometimes it’s right in front of you. Caring for a loved one is exhausting and exasperating, but is love at it’s purest. Most people say that the Sarah/Karl doomed love story is the saddest part of the film but, while I agree that she DEFINITELY deserved a slice of that walking caramel pie, it’s a story of realistic, true love; love between siblings that is as solid as Karl’s rockhard abs (I mean… COME ON!).
After all, there’s little ‘worse than the total agony of being in love’.