A film for those who like their stories relentlessly cheerful, and dislike anything which could be confused with real life or valid emotions, 'Love Actually' is told in some half-a-dozen parts, all of which attempt to give some insight into the nature of love.


Amongst them are the widower Daniel (Neeson) whose stepson is dealing with his first pangs of love. Meanwhile, the newly elected Prime Minister (Grant) develops a crush on his tealady (McCutcheon). The PM's sister (Thompson) is undergoing problems in her own marriage as her hubby (Rickman) may be conducting an affair with his forward secretary. Meanwhile, his staff are involved in their own romantic entaglements, like Sarah (Linney) who can't bring herself to admit her feelings for a co-worker. Various other, one dimensional entanglements come and go in this underwritten, vastly overpopulated movie.


However, most pursue mediocrity with the same ruthless endeavour, pausing only to shower the audience with moments of sheer banality and unbridled sentimentality, which Curtis unwisely offsets with a very shallow facade of humour. (Realism is not one of the director's strong points. According to this, pretty much everyone in London is wildly successful and lives in glowing, Ikea designed homes, which must be nice for them.)


Although rarely less than clumsy, there are moments in 'Love Actually' when things threaten to gel - Grant might be showboating but he's relentlessly charming, while Bill Nighy adds a real zest to his character, providing the film's only decent laughs. All too often, however, 'Love Actually' tries to do too much when it should be concentrating on getting the simple things right.