‘Love Actually’ – a romantic sampler for Christmas on Netflix and AMC+

Richard Curtis, Britain’s one-man romantic comedy factory and writer of such hits as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, made his directorial debut with this star-studded comedy about Love Actually (2003).

The film skips through what seems like dozens of stories over the course of the Christmas holidays, following the romantic travails of everyone from the British Prime Minister (a charming and sweet Hugh Grant), who finds himself smitten with a new member of his staff (Martine McCutcheon) to the love-struck grade school son (Thomas Sangster) of a grieving widower (Liam Neeson).

In between we get an old married couple (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman) suffering the marriage blahs, a novelist (Colin Firth) who flees a cheating girlfriend and falls for a Portuguese housemaid, and a luckless British slob who flies to the American Midwest to find something that England lacks: girls who think he’s cute.

The film is all but stolen, however, by Bill Nighy as a washed up rock star goofing his way through his holiday TV and radio appearances as his seasonal song climbs the charts. Nighy is hilariously cheeky, without ego or shame as he goof his way through the Christmas season, and his journey to love is perhaps the most unconventional and unexpected, and in its way the most moving.

It doesn’t skip a romantic trope as it jumps around from story to story, sweeping us from swoony romance to heartbreak to silly fantasy, from puppy love to middle-aged yearning. It’s all more than the film can really handle but there’s so much going on that the fumbles are quickly replaced with another story. This overstuffed fantasy isn’t so much about love actually as it is fairy tale romance (a couple of romantic disappointments aside).

Think of it as the ultimate holiday box of chocolates: a bit of everything and more than one person should devour in a single sitting. Some with walk away with sugar shock, for sure, but it has become a holiday classic for those who love Christmas romances. The cast is just as overstuffed; it costars Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightly, Rowan Atkinson, Martin Freeman, Joanna Page, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, and Billy Bob Thornton.

Bill Nighy won a BAFTA for his performance.

Rated R

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Love Actually [Blu-ray]
Love Actually [4K UHD + Blu-ray]
Love Actually [DVD]

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The Blu-ray and DVD editions feature commentary by director Richard Curtis and actors Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy and Thomas Sangster, deleted scenes with introductions by Richard Curtis, “The Music of Love Actually” with introductions by Richard Curtis, and a music video.


Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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