The Twelve Flicks of Christmas

A New ben’s TEN Series

Get the Scoop You Won’t Find Anywhere Else on 12 Christmas Movies Old and New
[See complete list of reviews]

Love Actually (2003)
Directed by Richard Curtis
Rated R
Starring: Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman

Review by Jeff Koch

Conventional Synopsis:
The stories of several characters intersect in this Romantic Comedy set against the backdrop of Christmas in London.  Love is lost, love is found, love is unrequited, love is unattainable, love is let go, and love is tested.  No fewer than ten different stories are woven into the tapestry of the film, and most are very satisfying.  Hugh Grant as the Prime Minister falling in love, Liam Neeson mending his broken heart as he helps his stepson discover all the joys and pain of being hopelessly in love, and Bill Nighy as a fallen-from-greatness rock star selling his artistic integrity as he searches for one last hit are particularly strong.  Laura Linney’s story of a woman unable to enjoy love due to family complications is a bit dull and the ending unsatisfying, though Linney’s performance is as strong as ever.  The movie culminates on Christmas Eve as all parties must decide just how far they will go for the season’s ultimate gift: love. 

Beneath the Surface
Love is the name of the movie, and love is all around, beneath the surface and on the surface.  The thesis of the movie is laid out bare in voice over (by Hugh Grant) as we watch real life scenes of people at airports.  He says: If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that love, actually, is all around.

What the movie sets out to do that is somewhat unique is to show all aspects of love, from its beginnings, to its ends, to every rough patch along the way.  As the title suggests, this movie is less about its characters and their search for love, but more about capital-L, Love itself.  The primary message is less about the consequences of love, but more about the simple choice to allow love to be the guiding principle of your life, for better or worse.  This message is framed within the season, suggesting the idea that the holidays are a time to be especially thankful and especially giving in love.

Beyond the lofty ideal of Love, the idea of interconnectedness is paramount to the story.  No plot line in the movie stands as its own solitary story; all characters are connected, all stories are connected.  All people are connected.  The famous quote from Donne comes to mind: “no man is an island.”  By the very nature of accepting love, the movie suggests, you must also accept that you need people in your life, and that all people are necessarily connected.  To love is an act of communion, opening your heart and your soul to all of those you care about.  To that end, this is not a movie to be watched alone, but in good company.

Finally, the importance of music in the movie is understated but powerful.  Every scene is framed by a great song choice or an apt score, and music plays a vital role in several scenes.  The movie uses music to heighten the emotional impact of several scenes, and music often serves as a means for expressing the characters true feelings, even as their words are unable to.  The movie shows how music impacts our life far beyond the 4-minute bursts we hear it in: the perfect song can guide our choices, shape our feelings, and give our life new and expanded meaning.


Cocoa Factor = 9 out of 10
How good is this one for cozying up with a fire burning, a hot beverage of your choice, and your new Snuggy?

Magicality = 8 out of 10
How well does this one transport you back to the timeless wonderment beyond rationality when Christmas enveloped you in magic? AKA “The Santa Clause factor.”

A Date with Grandma and Aunt Bernice = 6 out of 10
(the movie is rated R, and contains nudity and coarse language; not suitable for children)
How appropriate/awkward is this one to watch with relatives of all ages? Will hot kissing scenes or male rear nudity spoil the mood?

Tiny Tim’s Big Truths = 9 out of 10
From the mouths of babes come life’s most profound lessons. At the heart of this flick, how authentic, heartfelt and lasting is the message? Does it transcend Xmas clichés and ring bells?

 Overall = 9 out of 10


About bensten

Teacher, writer, blogger and spiritual practitioner. Managing editor of

3 responses »

  1. […] threads into its tapestry runs the risk of spreading too thin. Just as a movie like Love Actually (see Jeff Koch’s review) has to sacrifice the depth of certain storylines in its final cut, Christmas in the Clouds does […]

  2. Jeff says:

    Shoot, I haven’t seen the deleted scenes. I suppose I just better go out and buy the movie, huh, since I end up watching it every Christmas anyway! I love Hugh Grant as the prime minister, especially when he’s dressing down Billy Bob as our part-Clinton/part-Bush president. Go England! And speaking of Colin Firth, I’m hearing great things about ‘The King’s Speech’.

  3. Cathy says:

    This is one of my most favorite movies! Sweet review, Jeff. Did you watch the deleted scenes- I thought the story between the school principal and her partner dying of cancer was heartbreaking and told with such compassion. Love the whole movie though, and am always seeing or hearing connections with it. Not to mention the great cast who show up everywhere (ahhhh Colin Forth….)

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