Now, we’re probably all sick of the annual unwinnable debate about Love Actually’s storylines; I say unwinnable because, unless you agree with me, you are wrong and thus losing the argument.
No one will be able to convince me that this ranking is inaccurate (my Christmas angel Emma Thompson visited me in a dream and personally approved of this ranking), but you’re welcome to try. Christmas involves turkey, tree decorating, gift-giving, and, most certainly and entertainingly, heated arguments about Love Actually.
So, indulge in this holiday tradition and critique my ranking- if you can, which will be hard, as it is completely factually correct.
Coming in at dead last is Colin “God of Sex” (Kris Marshall) and his journey to woo the women of Wisconsin.
Whilst his and Tony’s (Abdul Salis) bromance does provide some mild comedy, there’s no emotional investment in what they’re up to. We just don’t care about how things are going to end up for Colin, and we feel little-to-no joy for him when he gets his happy ending, especially when characters we genuinely do care about don’t get one (*cough cough* Emma Thompson’s character).
Sarah (Laura Linney) and Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) had so much potential to be a good storyline- the introduction of her brother was beautifully done too. The only reason it’s so low down this list is because it got very little screen-time compared to the other storylines and so we are a little less emotionally invested in what happens with them. When Harry (my arch-nemesis, played by Alan Rickman) first reveals that Sarah has feelings for her co-worker, Karl, it’s such a cute, sweet, and mushy moment. The slow dance at the art gallery is so lovingly gentle too, but ultimately it just goes nowhere. However, the parts we do get are a fun little addition to the film.
This goes to the love triangle of Juliet, Mark, and Peter.
I adore Keira Knightly and Andrew Lincoln but their characters’, Juliet and Mark, have a love story that is just… off. The wedding video was creepy, the flashcards were awkward, and poor Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) spent his Christmas none the wiser as to what his wife and best friend were up to.
I will say that Mark’s little burst of frustration during his walk after the iconic ‘viewing of the wedding videos’ scene with Julia is one of the best and most accurate portrayals of emotion the film has. It’s an interesting storyline, and is deservedly one of the most memorable and iconic parts of Love Actually, but I’ve no desire to put it any higher on my list.
Martin Freeman and Joanna Page provide the cutest comedy relief in the entire film. Despite the nature of their meeting, their characters, John and Judy, have the most innocent and pure love that’s just really fun to watch.
John’s reaction to their first kiss is rom-com cinema perfection and I am supremely glad that these two got their happy ending. However, it doesn’t really add much overall which is why it sits in the bottom half of this list.
I’m a sucker for dramatic confessions of love so the scene where Jamie (Colin Firth) bursts into the restaurant to announce his feelings to Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz) in butchered Portuguese was a moment that stirred immense Christmas cheer in me.
However, the lack of ‘Christmas in London, English rom-com’ vibe is the reason it ranks a little low, but I must stress that I do still really enjoy this couple. The scene where the papers are blowing in to the lake is so romantic and sweet and, from the offset, we find we really are rooting for the couple’s happiness.
This is where my ranking begins to feel a little like splitting hairs. Daniel (Liam Neeson) and Sam (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) have such beautiful interactions, the way Daniel takes Sam’s feelings so seriously makes my heart ache with joy, but Joanna (Olivia Olson) just feels like a blank slate where any other girl could’ve been inserted. It would’ve been nice to see her with some more personality, flesh out her story a little more, but Sam and Daniel made it interesting and sweet enough that I place this storyline at what I call the bottom of the top of this list.
This is probably my most controversial ranking. Hugh Grant plays David and it’s the main storyline so naturally, it belongs at number one- right?
Yes, David’s agony at fancying the new staff member on his first day in Downing Street and Natalie’s (Martine McCutcheon) bumbling swear-y greeting is enough to coo at, but it just doesn’t belong at the top of this list. Not because it has any drawbacks, but just because the other two options are better.
It’s a truly iconic storyline and Love Actually wouldn’t be half as good without it, but number three is where it belongs.
Now, this ranking may come as a surprise as, if you hadn’t guessed already, I love Emma Thompson. I love this storyline and I love Karen, played by Emma Thompson, but I can’t bring myself to enjoy her pain and so I can’t rank this any higher.
Her husband, Harry, was doing so well when we first met him during his little chat with Sarah in the office, but it immediately spiralled downhill when we met Satan-sorry, Mia- (Heike Makatsch) and could immediately gauge exactly what her agenda was and what this was going to mean for Karen the Sweetheart.
No one deserves that treatment, especially at Christmas, and especially Emma Thompson, so I would like to formally invite her to a Joni Mitchell wine night because I can promise that I will treat you right, Emma Thompson. However, I can’t promise that you deserve the number one spot on this list.
(I’d like to add that if I included Karen and Joni Mitchell’s para-social relationship as a storyline, it would definitely be number one).
Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for…
I know what you’re thinking. The stupid, comedic, and largely separate from the other storylines storyline is the one deserving of number one?
I concur that yes, it is deserving of it.
The manager, Joe, (Gregor Fisher) gets a rather tough time of it from Billy (Bill Nighy), tantalised and targeted pretty much all the way through the film but ultimately, Billy, on Christmas Eve, ditches his rock-star party at Elton John’s to spend it with his manager, declaring that “it’s a terrible, terrible mistake, Chubs but you turned out to be the f****** love of my life.”
It’s a seemingly platonic love that explores something completely different from the other storylines in the film and is just nice. Yes, Hugh Grant is posh, suave, cute, and handsome but Bill Nighy is cheeky yet sincere in a way that makes his role in this movie an absolute delight and truly deserving of the number one spot.
So… do you agree with this ranking? Any storylines you think have been completely robbed? Or do you agree with my entirely correct, flawless ranking?
Either way, I hope I’ve inspired you to cosy up and (re-)watch Love Actually this Christmas as, no matter what your favourite part is, it’s a great film front to back that all can enjoy.
An honourable mention must go to Daniel and his dead wife, Jo, who likely had a captivating love story but, unfortunately, we never got to see it. Liam Neeson broke my heart multiple times, especially during that funeral scene, and it was an excellent contribution to the overall Love Actually story.
Featured Image Credit: Universal Pictures