Christmas: Why love actually makes me smile every year

There are certain holiday films that have become so much a part of my Christmas tradition, that it almost doesn’t seem like a holiday if I don’t watch them.  I know I’m not alone in this feeling; for example, I have some friends who are unwavering observers of their Lord of the Rings marathon.  Although I haven’t quite got in on this tradition, I do support their enthusiasm and holiday spirit. For my family, obviously on top of this list is While You Were Sleeping.  This is probably my mum’s favorite movie and it remains securely in the lead of my family’s favorite films.  My sister and I have our own list, somewhat separate from the family list. We usually try to watch Mickey’s Christmas Carol, The Muppet Christmas Carol as well as a small selection of old, TV, holiday specials (Dr. Quinn, anyone?) However, one movie that remains on top of our list is Love Actually.  Outside of While You Were Sleeping and probably Little Women, it’s been the holiday movie I’ve watched most consistently since its debut.  Despite the fact that there are several story lines that literally make me cringe.  However, there are enough other kinds of story lines that every year, I find myself with the same stupidly, silly smile on my face by the time the credits roll. We watched it again this year, obviously, and as I was watching it I reflected a bit on what it is about the movie that makes me so consistently smiley, and overjoyed.

At first guess, I fancied that it might be  Hugh Grant and his fantastic dance-aerobic sequence.  However as good as that is, I could just YouTube that scene and skip the rest. (Although frankly, his whole story line is one of my favorites.)

But the goodness doesn’t stop there.  There are several other story lines that I love, and so I hypothesized that there was probably some deeper overriding theme that made me adore Love Actually. (Hmmm… here’s a far stretch but…could that theme actually be Love?)

Well…. ultimately, as it turns out… yes. However, I had more thoughts on that thought of love. I realized that the reason it makes me so insanely happy is because, yes it’s about love, but also because pretty much everyone in the film is telling the one they love how the feel, and frequently doing it in a way that means risking rejection and in some cases, what is obviously doomed dismissal.  It seems so silly that as humans we don’t naturally do that all the time—but I certainly don’t.  I was watching this episode of Little House on the Prairie last summer; it’s the episode where Laura really likes this guy, and Nellie tricks her into telling her how she feels, while secretly recording it on their new-fangled recording thingy (I don’t actually remember what it was called).  Then Nellie plays it back in front of the whole school, including the guy Laura liked.  Laura is horribly humiliated by the whole event, and does what most of us do when we’re embarrassed (or at least what I want to do when I’m embarrassed) —she jumps up from her desk and makes a run for the exit, retreating into the woods to be alone.  Pa finds out what happens, and so he goes out looking for Laura and finds her alone crying.  And then Pa tells her something that I found so profound this summer, that I promptly added it to my ‘favorite quotes’ anywhere I could find a ‘favorite quotes’ location, and I’m thinking it might actually be good to print it in poster format for my wall, or maybe to hang on the ceiling over my bed so I see it first thing when I wake up. He said, “There are a lot of funny notions born inside of us, Half-Pint, and one of the funniest is that we’re supposed to hide the way we feel about others.  Let me tell you something, everyone needs to feel that they’re loved, needed, and cared about.  Anyone who doesn’t want to know that has something wrong with them.”

Thank you Pa Ingalls. See, I don’t know why, but I frequently have found myself becoming embarrassed when maybe I’ve written something and someone doesn’t write back.  Or alternately I’ve invited someone and they don’t reciprocate.  You know, those times when you’ve put yourself out there and the only reply is the sound of crickets chirping? Well, in those situations, I like Laura tend to run for the exit. I assume that the other person must be rolling their eyes and thinking what an idiot I am, because I want to be friends with them, more than they want to be friends with me.  Or possibly worse yet, I love them, more than they love me.  No, I don’t ALWAYS take it personally.  Sometimes I see it as ‘just an oversight’ you know, a ‘they were too busy to get back’ etc.  But if I REALLY care, and I’m putting myself out there a little further (ie taking the friendship/relationship…whatever) to the next, previously undeclared level? And they don’t reciprocate? Then my dominate emotion for rejection, is usually humiliation. So this summer as I was watching Little House on the Prairie, I was comforted to see, that for whatever reason, it’s not just me that feels this from time to time. Most of us have a hard time putting ourselves in the position where there is the potential of rejection—sometimes even on a small level—so we don’t say how we feel.  And when it slips out, it’s not just me who sometimes has the instinctive ‘flee to the woods’ reaction.  But Pa is right—in the end everyone needs to know that someone noticed them and cared.  And feeling embarrassed because you love someone? Silly. At the end of the day, we usually regret not saying how much we care, not vice versa.  And so…

I think, ultimately, in a more modern, British (and yes, sometimes crasser) way—Love Actually is in the same ball park as Pa Ingalls.  Throughout the movie, people go out of their way to tell others how they feel—even when it’s possibly going to be awkward and result in rejection.  And so, that’s why every year I get a huge hankering to watch Love Actually. I need to be reminded that, well ‘if you can’t say it at Christmas, when can you, eh?’ But it honestly should be said all year through because love actually IS all around.

Happy Christmas!


~M.R. Berry