Novelty Is Sexy – Colin has become fed up with English women. As far as he’s concerned, they’re all prim, stuck up twits who couldn’t appreciate a quality guy if he were to dump a tray of canapés on her. His solution? To head to the distant shores of America where surely his British accent will leave him knee-deep in sex.
Not surprisingly, he’s right. As many a Briton, Aussie, Scot or Irishman have learned, having an accent in America goes a long way towards getting people’s interest up and running.
Novelty and exoticness are attractive traits in people and tweaks at the primal part of our brains. The new and unusual signal that an individual is from outside the tribe and brings fresh genetic material into the mix, highly desirable traits for helping to weed out recessive genes that are expressed through too much inter-breeding. Of course, it also helps that…
Sexy Stereotypes Work – The trio of bar bunnies that take Colin back to their apartment aren’t interested in Colin as a person; they like what he represents. Similarly, Sam understands that women love musicians… just like Billy Mack (Bill Nighy). These stereotypes are a sort of short hand for what the person might be. Musicians are confident – an attractive trait in any man – and showy; on the strictly primal, instinctive level, they represent status and viability. Like the peacock with the most radiant plumage, they demonstrate that they’re able to thrive in a hostile world. They offer status, which in turn means that they offer both protection, access to food and can provide for mates and offspring. Sam may only be 10 years old, but becoming a drummer still means adopting that stereotype… which in turn helps get Joanna’s attention.
Yes, those sexy stereotypes mean that people aren’t perceiving them as a person at first… but then again, sometimes a man isn’t just a person, he’s also a piece of meat.
There Is No “One”– The idea of a person’s “one true love” is romantic, but that romance rarely matches up with reality. While it’s tempting to declare that someone is The One, the sole person that the lovelorn will ever have such feelings for, in real life people can and will love many people over their lives. Daniel (Liam Neeson), mourning the loss of his beloved life, insists that she had been The One and that he’ll never find another like her… but then he meets Carol, another single parent at his son’s school.
Love Doesn’t Mean That It Will All Work Out – Sarah has loved Karl since the day she started work. She has a lot to offer; she’s attractive, smart and successful at her job, and Karl clearly finds her attractive as well. However, life tends to be complicated… and some people aren’t going to be willing to handle those complications. Sarah, you see, also has to care for her institutionalized older brother Michael (Michael Fitzgerald). Taking care of him can mean that her life can be interrupted at any moment. Moments such as when she is finally about to consummate her love for Karl. While Karl seems like a nice guy, it also is abundantly clear that he’s not quite ready for the complications and difficulties that would come part and parcel with dating Sarah. And as much as she wishes she could, Sarah understands that she can’t just ignore her responsibilities to her brother when it’s inconvenient. As a result, Sarah and Karl never make it as a couple. Love is a powerful thing, but life is more so.
Love Doesn’t Mean You Won’t Be Attracted To Others – Harry (Alan Rickman) and Karen (Emma Thompson) clearly have a deep and abiding love for one another. It’s abundantly clear throughout the movie that the two of them love one another madly and there’s no question that Harry would never leave her or their children. However when Harry’s secretary, the sultry Mia (Heike Makatsch), begins to flirt with him in increasingly blatant and sexual ways, even Harry can’t deny the attraction or her appeal. And it’s understandable; love doesn’t mean that you won’t desire other people. Humans are not hardwired for monogamy, and monogamy is incredibly difficult. The half-life of passionate love is between six months to a year. Sexual passion in a long-term couple will ebb and flow over the years; there will be long dry spells where neither partner are particularly interested in the other sexually, and there will be times when suddenly they won’t be able to keep their hands off one another. In any relationship, the thrill of a new crush can be intoxicating and it can inspire both men and women to make bad decisions. Harry’s attraction to Mia doesn’t mean that he loves Karen any less… it just means that he’s human and he’s caught up in the rush of the new.
Love Comes In Many Forms – On the heels of his triumphant rise to the top of the Christmas singles charts, has been rocker Billy Mack realizes that, to his surprise, his manager Joe (Gregor Fisher) is in many ways, the love of his life. There may not be a sexual component to their love, but that doesn’t make their affection any less heartfelt or real. It’s only when Billy is celebrating his return to cultural relevancy that he’s realized that the person who’s shared most of his life’s triumphs and tragedies is Joe… who is closer and ultimately more important to him then any of the starlets or nameless groupies who’ve shared his bed throughout the years.
You Need To Earn Your Happy Ending – The triumphs of the lovers in Love Actually isn’t because “love conquers all”. It’s because they all worked for their goals. Colin sold his apartment in order to finance his trip to America. Sam practiced at drums day and night in order to impress Joanna, and it was Daniel’s effort in supporting his son that ultimately lead to his meeting Carol. Billy Mack put great effort into promoting a single that he would cheerfully admit was shit, even though he was only in it for the money. Jaime took intensive study courses in Portugese so that he would finally be able to talk to his beloved Aurélia… and we see that Aurélia has similarly been putting time into learning English. Mark may have had to give up on Juliet, but it’s clear that not only have they cleared the air but that the three of them are fast friends – a far happier ending than Mark forcibly keeping his distance. And despite his foolish actions around Mia, Harry and Karen have put time and effort into saving their relationship and they have clearly reconciled by the end of the movie.
It hasn’t been easy for any of the characters; their path to their happiness in the epilogue has been paved with blood, sweat and sometimes literal tears. The most important message of the film is that nobody gets the love they want for free. It’s only when they are willing to put in the effort – sometimes even in the face of incredibly daunting odds – that they are rewarded. Love isn’t simple. Love isn’t easy. Love doesn’t come easily, it doesn’t come without pain and it doesn’t come with out work.
But in the end it’s worth it.