Christmas Entertaining

From the adorable to the utterly problematic: Love Actually's storylines ranked

It won't stop us watching every year though.

By Alex Lilly
With mere days until the big day, Christmas celebrations are in full swing around the world.
Whether it's spending hours agonising over where each decoration should hang on the tree or splurging on gifts to make this year better than the last, there are some traditions that never go out of style. None more so than re-watching Love Actually for the gazillionth time.
The festive flick written and directed by rom-com king Richard Curtis follows nine different storylines as they navigate love over the Christmas season and nearly 20 years on from its release, it's still an absolute favourite.
However with each passing year, we can't help but notice that the stories we once found so gooey and romantic are a lot more sticky and troublesome than we realised.
It certainly won't deter us from watching, but we've decided to rank the nine stories in this 2003 masterpiece from least to most problematic.
Keep scrolling to see if you agree. Warning, there will be spoilers for the few people yet to watch…

9. Daniel, Sam and Joanna

They say the purest form of unconditional love is between parents and their children and this storyline only emphasises it.
Not long after the death of his wife, Daniel (Liam Neeson) learns that his 11-year-old stepson Sam (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is head over heels for Joanna, an American girl at his school who coincidentally shares the same name as his late mum.
The duo grow closer with Daniel teaching Sam about the art of romance that culminates in a dash through airport security (seeing as this was set two years after 9/11 it's a tad unbelievable but we digress).
Not only does their stepfather-stepson bond strengthen, but they both find romantic love too - Daniel meets fellow school mum Carol (Claudia Schiffer) .
Daniel and Sam's story is the purest by far. (Universal Pictures)

8. John and Judy

Probably not the most comfortable scenes to watch with your parents and grandparents, but they do show that love can be found in the most unlikely of places.
The couple (played by Martin Freeman and Joanna Page) meet on a film set as stand-ins doing the sex scenes and whilst they're comfortable simulating sex and with nudity, their conversation is nothing but wholesome.
"It's lovely to find someone I can actually chat to," a shy, naked John admits with a naked Judy on top of him.
Their first kiss perfectly encapsulates those awkward and pure moments at the beginning of a relationship and a month later they get engaged. It may be a bit fast but what the hell, it's Christmas.
"All I want for Christmas, is you." (Universal Pictures)

7. Billy Mack and Joe

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes…These two are yet another example of platonic love despite a few eyebrow-raising comments made at Joe's expense.
Former heroin addict and ageing rocker Billy (Bill Nighy) is in the process of promoting his bid for the Christmas no. one hit Christmas Is All Around Me supported by his long-suffering manager Joe (Gregor Fisher). In the end, he skips attending an A-list party on Christmas Eve with Elton John to be with Joe proclaiming him to be the love of his life.
Special shoutout to the line "Kids, don't buy drugs. Become a pop star and they give you them for free."
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6. Colin and his American girls

Self-proclaimed god of sex Colin (Kris Marshall) decides English girls are too "stuck up" for his liking and decides he'll find true love if he flies to America since the girls there are "cooler" and "up for a laugh".
At the first Wisconsin bar he walks into, he's immediately met by three stunning American women (one of whom is played by a pre Mad Men January Jones) who fall for his English accent and invite him to come back home with him.
All in all it's pretty harmless, but we fear it's given too many average English men an ego boost they don't deserve.
Just your average American bar. (Universal Pictures)

5. Sarah and Karl

Sweet Sarah (played by Laura Linney) is crushing hard on her handsome co-worker Karl. At the Christmas party, the two hook up and all is going so well until she interrupted once again by her mentally ill brother Michael calling and their tryst is put on hold.
Some blame Sarah for picking up the phone, others blame Karl for not being patient enough but in our books it's just one of those unfortunate situations that life throws.
She may not have had her happily ever after with Karl but we tear up every time she spends Christmas at Michael's care facility and they hug. All in all, not the best situation but not the absolute worst.
At least she managed to have a dance. (Universal Pictures)

4. Jamie and Aurélia

Ok, now we're getting down to the nitty gritty and this could be an unpopular opinion.
After finding out his girlfriend has been cheating on him with his brother, Jamie (Colin Firth) dashes off to spend the lead up to Christmas in France where he meets Portuguese housekeeper Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz). Sounds cute, but the two cannot speak the other's language. That doesn't deter Jamie though, who learns Portuguese and flies out to propose (grammatically incorrectly) on Christmas Eve who accepts in broken English.
It's your classic rom com complication and whilst it's romantic in theory, how on earth can you expect these two to last when they barely have anything in common? We say Aurélia should've taken her sister's advice and married Prince William instead – at least she could live in a palace.
Cute in theory, not that romantic when you think about it. (Universal Pictures)

3. David and Natalie

As the new handsome and single Prime Minister, David (Hugh Grant) has a lot on his plate what with running the country. But he quickly develops a crush on Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), a new junior member of the Downing Street staff who delivers him his tea and biscuits.
The flirtation is fine and cute until there's a visit from the US President (Billy Bob Thornton) who makes a pass at Natalie that David walks in on. That prompts David to ask his staff to "redistribute her" even though Natalie was clearly uncomfortable by what went down when she was alone with the President. It takes a Christmas card from Natalie apologising (yes, she apologises) for what happened for David to track her down and proclaim his love. After the alleged behaviour Australia's politicians have engaged in with younger staffers, the storyline shows another side in a modern context.
On top of that, there are all those comments about the beautiful Natalie being chubby that would never fly today.

2. Mark, Juliet and Peter

This is the storyline with the most memorable scene ever, but our opinion of it has gone from tragically romantic to downright stalky.
Though he serves as best man at his friend Peter's (Chiwitel Ejiofor) wedding, Mark (Andrew Lincoln) appears to dislike his friend's new bride Juliet (Keira Knightley). However, after its revealed Mark's wedding video consisted entirely of footage of Juliet, she learns he's actually been in love with her.
Cut to the infamous boombox and cue cards scene where Mark professes his love to Juliet, who kisses him briefly before returning to her unassuming husband.
Between the creepy filming dubbed "a self-preservation thing", Mark rocking up to the house and Juliet kissing her husband's best friend, it hasn't aged too well. But it's not the worst one.
Not. Appropriate. (Universal Pictures)

1. Harry, Karen and Mia

Alan Rickman, why must you do this every year? In case you need a recap, Harry (Alan Rickman) is married to Karen (Emma Thompson) with whom he shares two children but is clearly attracted to his secretary Mia, who herself is an unabashed flirt.
The two dance at the office Christmas party under Karen's eye and Harry buys an expensive necklace for Mia, that Karen finds. The scene where Karen opens that Joni Mitchell CD and discovers who the necklace is really for will go down in history as one of the most heartbreaking in cinema.
Whilst Karen confronts her cheating husband ("You've also made a fool out of me, you've made the life I lead foolish too,"), the two appear to stay together at the end but of course the trust is gone.
It's not like this has ever been the big romantic story or one that's aged badly, but we're still mad about it.
20 years later and we're still upset. (Universal Pictures)