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Love Actually: “It’s not Karl’s fault that he and Sarah don’t work out”

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Megan Murray
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Rodrigo Santoro has shared his thoughts on the Love Actually Hot Karl and Sarah do-they don’t-they debate, and according to the man himself the pair do have a future. 

Laura Linney’s sweet and sensitive portrayal as Sarah, the office worker with a monumental crush on the “enigmatic designer” Karl, arguably steals the show in Love Actually.

From her good-humoured handling of the news that everyone in the office knows about said crush, to the heart-breaking way she stays constantly on-call for her brother who lives with a mental illness(the moment she carefully restrains him moves us to tears every time), Linney’s superpower is stirring empathy in her audience.

But the crescendo moment for this is, of course, when her excited happy-dance at bringing Karl back to her flat descends into an awkward silence, as they both sit half-dressed and unable to look at each other.

It’s one of the most compelling scenes in the film, but although many of the storylines in Love Actually end in a fairytale of sorts (whether it be Billy Mac realising how much he appreciates his manager or the prime minister finding love with Natalie), the Karl and Sarah situation is never resolved. 

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If that’s been bugging you ever since the film’s release in 2003, and we expect even more at this time of the year (we’ve re-watched it three times already), then you’ll be thrilled to know that the actor who played Karl, Rodrigo Santoro, has reflected on the film and on whether he thinks they would end up together in the end.

Speaking on BuzzFeed News’ morning show AM to DM, Santoro said: “I personally love the movie. It’s so well written and that’s one of the reasons that the movie’s still there and it’s one of the people’s favorites. It’s complicated, it’s complex, it’s sweet, it’s just smart, it’s fun, and it’s just a blessing to have been a part of it.”

When asked if Karl and Sarah would have been together in a sequel, he replied: “Yes. Definitely yes.”

So that’s it settled then, or is it? Well, the Stylist team aren’t all so convinced.

Lucy Robson, Stylist’s SEO manager, would argue that Karl’s bad behaviour makes him unworthy of Sarah: “There aren’t many doomed love stories that offend me quite as much as that of Sarah and hot Karl in Love Actually. Mainly because, in this case, it’s so painfully obvious that it doesn’t need to end in tragedy. Poor Laura Linney, she’s been in love with Karl for ‘two years, seven months, three days and I suppose an hour and thirty minutes.’ And according to Harry (Alan Rickman) everyone knows she wants to have ‘lots of sex and babies’ with him, including, and here’s the clincher, Karl himself.

“Hot Karl has never made a move, until the office Christmas party when he finally propositions her with ‘just one dance, before we run out of chances?’ But why? Why and how will you run out of chances, Karl? You work in the same office every day, we see you both stay late every night, often alone in the office. So really Karl, you have an abundance of opportunities to make a move, don’t you?

“I think he’s built up this evening as a trial run for her and him, only willing to give it that one chance. And because she ‘ruins’ it for him by taking distressed calls from her brother, that’s it for them and he’s unwilling to give it another try. In fact, while she’s on the phone, having what is clearly a difficult conversation he just sits there moping, and then leaves. And that, it seems, is the end of that. The one chance has gone up in a puff of smoke because she couldn’t give him the full attention he seems to think he deserves.

“It’s clear that she is having a tough time, why doesn’t he offer her any support other than his half-arsed ‘life is full of complications’? Yeah, thanks for that Karl, we know. Let’s also remember that he’s a colleague who she has known for two years, and even though it hasn’t become romantic before now, they clearly have a relationship. This particular evening is clearly not the right time for her, why doesn’t he say: ‘I understand things are hard for you, but don’t worry I’m here for you and we can pick this up another time, or we can work around your responsibilities?’ In my opinion she’s better off without Karl and, actually, I think the sequel would see her with someone who deserves her.”

While digital writer Megan Murray thinks that the situation deserves understanding because of its complexities, and is still flying the Karl and Sarah flag high: “Of course, I adore Laura Linney in this role and have a huge soft spot for Sarah, but it’s not Karl’s fault that they don’t get together – I actually feel really sorry for him in this situation.

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“Simply because an objectively very attractive actor (he was modelling for D&G perfume ads at the time, let us all remember) was cast in the role as Karl, we put the expectation on him that the character must be mega confident and assured, and therefore take control of the situation with Sarah. But have you ever seen Karl actually act that way? He constantly stays late at work which doesn’t exactly elude to a glittering social life, he meekly says goodnight to Sarah every night before he leaves and when he asks her to dance it’s sweetly awkward, such is his obvious nervousness.

“Let’s consider that Karl could be just as into Sarah as she is to him. That he’s wracked my nerves to ask her out, and after finally coming back to her flat and inching a little closer to spending some time with her out the office, she ignores and moves away from him as she insists on answering her phone. The fact that her brother has mental health issues is terrible, but it’s not a problem that Sarah can solve in that moment by answering the phone to him. She needed to turn that phone off and put herself first for a night, giving herself and Karl the chance to explore what they could have together. It doesn’t surprise me that at such a delicate, fledgling stage of a relationship Karl felt a bit rejected and unsure of what to do after she made it clear she would be kicking him out imminently, without an apology or proper explanation.

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“If there were to be a sequel, I would hope that they get another chance, and that this time Karl would have the bravery to ask her if he can support her (which to be fair, was a good point from Lucy). Hopefully Sarah would carve out some time for herself and give the relationship a proper chance.”

Well, if you’re stuck for something to talk about around the dinner table this Christmas, this debate could be just the trick.

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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