Love Actually – I’ve finally watched it and uggghhhh

ScreenHub's film afficionado watches Love Actually for the first time, and much cringing ensues.

Dear reader: before we enter into another year of film and TV, there’s something I must confess. I, a 30-something millennial, have never seen Love Actually (2003).

Well, I had never seen Love Actually, until this week, when I was told quite firmly that I must watch it lest I lose all my film-knob credibility.

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I decided the best time to do it would be when my partner (who has seen the film many times) and I put up our Christmas tree, which was on Monday night. So with a wine in one hand and a bit of tinsel in the other (I’m a talented multi-tasker), I loaded up Love Actually on Stan for the very first time.

Here are my thoughts as they happened.

The opening

Bill Nighy in Love Actually. Image: Universal Pictures.

Okay, we’re in an airport, looking at all sorts of people meeting up with their loved ones. All straight couples. These two elderly women are cuddling … perhaps they could be lesbians? No. Probably not. It’s 2003 and everyone knows the gays didn’t exist then.

Hello, star-studded cast! That’s what we’re here for! Nighy, Neeson, Rickman (RIP), Firth, Grant, Linney, all bangers, no mash.

It’s crazy that Bill Nighy is supposed to be ‘senior’ in this film but he almost looks young. He’s also clearly having a ball with this role, and the fun is infectious.

And right away we have our first 9/11 mention! Yikes!

Originally I thought it would be a good idea to take a drink every time this film made me think ‘Yikes!’, but I quickly realise this would be a bad, bad idea.

There is a man walking through an office with big bugged-out eyes. It’s possible he needs help. ‘Hello, future wife,’ he says to the receptionist. Um, sir, do you even know this woman? Human Resources!!

Kris Marshall as Colin Frissell. Image: Universal Pictures.

Now we’re at a wedding. The guy from Serenity and the guy from Walking Dead are chatting nervously. ‘Shame those Brazilian prostitutes we hired for your stag night turned out to be men.’ Ah, transphobia –why am I not surprised. It is Britain’s favourite sport after all!

Hugh Grant is the Prime Minister of the UK, obviously. I dunno about this depiction of 10 Downing Street though … where is Larry the famous cat?? Are there any cats in this movie at all? Disappointing.

My partner turns to me and says: ‘he’s just like a typical British PM, isn’t he?’ I respond: ‘Yeah, he looks just like Liz Truss.’ Zing!

I have feelings about this film’s stylistic choices. Mostly negative feelings. It looks like a cross between a televised coronation and a lengthy episode of The Bold and the Beautiful.

I’m gonna admit at this point that I always thought Love Actually was a collection of short films within one film. I didn’t realise everything would be so interconnected. It’s like a Pulp Fiction Christmas special.

The first act

Hugh Grant in Love Actually. Image: Universal Pictures.

I’d say Colin (the creepy ‘future wife’ guy) was an unrealistic douchebag of a character but I have literally met guys like this. Unfortunately.

I love a good ‘Liam Neeson’s character has a dead wife’ plot. It’s crazy that his son (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is meant to be 11, though. That child is clearly five. In fact, that kid has looked pre-teen for over a decade now. Remember when they put facial hair on him for Queen’s Gambit? Hilarious.

A child, or a haunted porcelain doll? Image: Universal Pictuers.

At this point I make the mistake of pausing the film. I look at the counter on the screen. ‘THIS FILM IS OVER TWO HOURS LONG?!’ I exclaim. My partner winces. ‘I never knew that,’ he said, his eyes filling with regret. Despite this, we press on.

Is Alan Rickman Laura Linney’s boss, or her Gay Best Friend? Why would a boss implore his worker to have sex with another worker, even in such a formulaic rom-com story? This is a bizarre choice.

Casual workplace banter. Image: Universal Pictures.

‘Four weeks til Christmas, why does that title stress me out?’ I ask my partner. ‘Because it’s four weeks til Christmas in real life, too.’ ‘Fuck!’ I jump up and start wrapping presents.

I am rolling my eyes so hard any time PM Hugh Grant says something to his secretary Natalie. This dialogue is the worst. And typically, the only woman of colour in this film is in a role of servitude and has to leave the scene when key moments happen.

Martin Freeman, bless him, is trying just a bit too hard for the laughs in this porno actor subplot.

I love Alan Rickman too but the way he just pronounced ‘Guacamole’ (quacka maulay?) makes me want to throw my telly out the window.

Emma Thompson is at Liam Neeson’s house. I comment on their chemistry. ‘I think they’re supposed to be siblings,’ my partner (incorrectly) suggests. ‘Like in a Jaime and Cersei Lannister sort of way?’ I ask. ‘God no. His spouse just died, Silv!’ he cries. ‘That didn’t stop them,’ I say. Zing x2.

PM Hugh Grant is about to get in a political staffer’s pants, isn’t he? What a Barnaby Joyce wannabe.

He just called Margaret Thatcher a ‘saucy minx’. Margaret. Thatcher. I’m going to barf.

It’s weird that hearing Andrew Lincoln speak in a British accent sounds wrong even though that’s his original accent.

Laura Linney airplaine-mode-your-phone challenge 2003.

The second act

Oh my goodness, the workplace violations in this film are racking up at such a meteoric rate that I can’t keep up. Everyone’s shagging their secretary, harassing their colleagues or breaking up a marriage!

Colin Firth appears to be, typically, having some sort of nervous breakdown. I hope he has some valium in that novelist’s retreat.

I can see why Firth and Grant don’t ever have a scene together in this film. Their combined nervous energy would cause them to spontaneously take flight. Just two British fops spinning rapidly into orbit.

What is wrong with everyone in the PM’s office? They’re calling Natalie fat as an insult when: 1. She’s obviously tiny and 2. Being fat isn’t a bad thing at all. Another bizarre choice.

Martine McCutcheon as Natalie. Image: Universal Pictures.

OK, the US President (Billy Bob Thornton) being a sex pest is the most realistic part of this film. Well done, Richard Curtis, you nailed that.


I’m realising at this point that I have seen quite a bit of this film, but only in GIF form. And memes, so many memes.

Hey, Colin Firth, maybe don’t use a typewriter outdoors on a windy day? They had invented laptops by 2003. You don’t have to put yourself through this.

Jeez, how many films have been riding on the premise of ‘Colin Firth gets wet’? At least four, I bet.

Colin Firth, perpetually wet man. Image: Universal Pictures.

Keira Knightley is just cool with her wedding video being ruined because the groom’s best friend wants to shag her? Sort out your priorities, love.

Here’s something funny: Liam Neeson and son are lifting their misery by watching Titanic, which is another extremely famous film that I have never seen all the way through.

Neeson just told his son not to worry about getting his crush to screw him because ‘xyz ugly people got with models etc.’ Again, this is A CHILD!!

We finally get some Rowan Atkinson, who is killing it with the physical comedy as always. Still, it’s weird that he’s barely in this film when I remember him being on the poster as a main player! I demand more Bean!

Rowan Atkinson’s comedic sensibilities lift the second act. Image: Universal Pictures.

The third act

‘You are sooooo hilarious … quick, what’s that over there?’. Image: Universal Pictures.

Obviously, this scene in the American bar with Creepy Colin has no redeemable qualities in 2022. I did keep thinking, however, that it would be so interesting if the girls turned out to be skilled grifters/murderers like in Hustlers. We just cut to him lying in the street, penniless and bleeding out. What a twist that would be!


Well. That whole necklace/cheating scandal was like being hit by a train. Ouch 🙁

Ohhh here we go. The famous card scene. ‘Say it’s carol singers,’ Andrew Lincoln implores Keira Knightley. ‘Oi, Mrs Singers is at the door,’ I say. Zing x3.

‘Without hope or agenda …,’ he continues. I’m pretty sure this ‘romantic gesture’ is led PRIMARILY by those two things, dude. Get a grip.

Blech. Image: Universal Pictures.

Oh! Are Davy Jones and his manager about to shag? Is this a thing that is happening? It would honestly make total sense. They have more chemistry than most of the couples in this flick!

Ah of course they’re not. I keep forgetting it’s 2003, when gay people didn’t exist because Lady Gaga hadn’t created them yet.

Right, I’m going to make a prediction for the ending now. All the characters will meet up in one room, and as we zoom out, we see that it is a Hillsong Mega Church. They will all hold hands and sing, their eyes completely lifeless. And before that happens, I think Emma Thompson will take Alan Rickman out John McClane style, and then swing into the church via the giant stained glass window. Yippe-kay-yay, unfaithful lover!

Now that a lot of the character’s relationships are crystal clear, I have a question: why doesn’t little Sammy use the fact that his dad (Neeson) is best friends with the Prime Minister’s sister (Thompson) for a bit of playground clout? Surely that would impress his crush?

Neeson is giving his kid all the important life lessons, like ‘make sure your relationship is locked down by age 11, otherwise it’s OVER’. What a great dad.

More fat jokes. More gay jokes. More eye-rolling from me. For a film touted as ‘a joyful Christmas romp’, I think this film is actually quite mean-spirited.

Bloody hell, this film has more endings that Return of the King. Almost as many hobbits, too.

Liam Neeson saying the stupidest shit with the most sincere delivery will never not be funny though.

I make lists all the time. Image: Universal Pictures.

It’s finally wrapping up. Woohoo! Now I have a lot of twee Christmas pop songs stuck in my head. Mercifully not ‘Wonderful Christmas Time,’ though this film definitely is that song’s spiritual twin.

None of my predictions came true 🙁

My final verdict

1 and a half stars and half a bottle of rum, thanks.

Love Actually can be found streaming on Stan and on Binge.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports