Hannah-Rose Yee really isn’t a fan of everyone’s favourite Christmas movie. Here, she explains why…
There are women out there who have seen Love Actually dozens and dozens of times. Some are even inching towards their 100th watch.
They achieve this feat because they spend the six weeks in the lead-up to Christmas watching it at least once, if not twice, a week. I know this for a fact because I used to live with one such woman. I would mark the passing of time and the waxing and waning of seasons by the moments I would turn the key in the door and hear the dulcet tones of Bill Nighy’s Billy Mack coming from the television. I knew it was December because Love Actually would be playing. I knew it was July because Love Actually would be playing. (For Christmas in July, naturally.)
Keira Knightley is not one of these women. In a new interview with Wired magazine, the actress revealed that she has only seen the movie once. And it was so long ago, presumably at the film’s premiere in 2003, that she has completely forgotten who her character Juliet actually ends up with at the end.
“I’m with my husband aren’t I? I’m with Chiwetel Ejiofor? I’ve only seen it once and it was a really long time ago,” she laughed in the video interview. “So I don’t go off with Andrew Lincoln? Yeah, I’m with Chiwetel Ejiofor.”
I have seen Love Actually more than once. I am a human woman living in this world and I have not been able to successfully escape the psychological tyranny of binge-watching Christmas movies during festive seasons.
It is because I have seen this movie more than once that I am able to take stock of it completely. At least this is what I tell myself. I’ve skipped the wine-chugging period of my Love Actually life and gone straight to the holding-the-glass-up-to-my-nose-and-breathing-deeply portion. I’m a Love Actually connoisseur, I can detect all sorts of notes in its bouquet, I can sense a chalkiness in its soil. And let me tell you, Love Actually is fully corked.
It is not a good movie. I grant you that for a great number of people it is a beloved film, but I think for many of these people there is a disconnect between what they think Love Actually is and what Love Actually actually is. For many people Love Actually is Christmas jokes, first lobsters, turtleneck jumpers and falling in love in the snow.
But if you cracked open Love Actually and dissected its internal organs you’d find that the movie is actually comprised of glorified stalking, sexual harassment and fatphobia.
Almost all of the film’s female characters get a terrible deal, including but not limited to Karen (Emma Thompson) and Sarah (Laura Linney). But in some ways it’s Knightley’s Juliet who has to put up with the most inordinate amount of bulls**t in the film.
Do you need a refresher on the plot of Love Actually? Have you seen the movie a Keira Knightley amount of times of an everyone else in the world amount of times?
Either way, here’s a brief synopsis: Juliet and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are about to embark on a life of wedded bliss. Their ceremony includes an orchestra smuggled into a church and seated among guests in the pews standing up to gleefully trumpet The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love. The whole thing has been engineered by Mark (Andrew Lincoln), Peter’s alleged Best Man and Best Friend, who nonetheless organised Brazilian prostitutes for his stag do and spends most of the wedding filming the ceremony on a dinky little camcorder.
Then, disaster! Upon returning from her honeymoon, Juliet discovers that the wedding video is unusable. There’s not a single frame of her that isn’t “blue and wibbly”. So she turns up at Mark’s house with banoffee pie to bribe him into showing her the footage that he filmed from the ceremony.
Why the delicious pie bribe? Well, here’s the thing: Mark doesn’t like Juliet. He’s rude to her and avoids all contact with her. She had to turn up at his house unannounced because he wasn’t being forthcoming on the phone. She finds the video and sits down to watch it while Mark’s steels himself for what is coming: the entire video is comprised of very eerie close-ups of Juliet’s face.
Juliet as she says her vows. Juliet’s eyes as she gazes at Peter. Juliet as she eats her wedding cake. Juliet. Juliet. Juliet.
Of course! Mark doesn’t hate Juliet, as his dismissive behaviour suggests. He loves her. A lifetime of watching romantic comedies should teach us that when a man treats us poorly it’s usually because he is nursing a spectacular secret crush.
He dashes out of his apartment, cringing from humiliation, but later turns up at Juliet and Peter’s – his best friend, remember that! – house with a whole bunch of placards that declare his undying, forbidden love. (“To me you are perfect,” one sign reads.) As he walks away Juliet scampers over to plant a kiss on his lips. “Enough,” he says. “Enough now.”
Julie didn’t ask for any of this. It’s not her fault that Mark is in love with her, and it’s not her fault that he stalked her, filming her without her permission all through her wedding to his best friend and lying about it, too.
All parties involved in this are in agreement. Lincoln actually said to director Richard Curtis that he was concerned about the character. “He is a stalker,” Lincoln told The Wrap. “That was my question to Richard Curtis, ‘Do you not think we’re sort of borderline stalker territory here?’ And he said ‘No, no. Not with you playing it, darling. You’ll be alright.’”
It might work like that in the movies, but it doesn’t matter if your stalker looks like Andrew Lincoln in real life, it’s never okay.
So I don’t blame Keira Knightley for only seeing Love Actually once. I wish I had only seen it once. Because once is enough times to watch someone being stalked onscreen.