Folks, the holiday season is upon us once again. People are trampling each other for discounted TVs, I’m spending $200 on Christmas scented candles, relatives are gearing up to argue over holiday dinner tables or Zoom calls, and cable stations are already well into their holiday programming schedules.
Everybody’s got a favorite holiday movie. If you don’t, you’re either a liar or a Scrooge, and either way I don’t want to know you. Luckily, we here at Wicked Good Gaming are big on this time of year, and Chris and I even share a favorite holiday film. That film, of course, is 2003’s Love Actually.
If you haven’t seen Love Actually, its a movie all about showcasing the search for, expression of, and even loss of – love – in nine different relationships. All of these relationships are connected in some way, but involve vastly different people with their own sets of issues, shortcomings, and desires.
One thing that’s great about Love Actually is that its variety of plot lines make it a very re-watchable movie, and I feel like every time I watch it, there’s something different I find to focus on. That being said, in all my years of expert, high-quality journalism, I’ve never seen anyone attempt to rank the myriad subplots in Love Actually from strongest to weakest. But today, my friends – that changes.
Before we do that though – if you enjoy this blog (or even if you don’t) please consider supporting our Toys for Tots fundraiser. All info is in the tweet below!
Now, without further ado, I present to you the 2020 Love Actually Subplot Power Rankings. Enjoy.
Spoilers for Love, Actually (a movie that came out 17 years ago) will follow.
#9 – Harry, Karen, and Mia
Overview: Harry is an executive who is happily married to Karen, a stay-at-home mother. Harry’s secretary, Mia, has the hots for him, and continuously attempts to seduce him – knowing full well he has a wife and children. Harry gives in to Mia’s charms, and secretly buys a Christmas gift for her, which Karen finds and believes is intended for her. When she opens up a gift on Christmas that is not that necklace, she realizes it was for someone else and confronts Harry, who admits that he really fucked up.
Why it’s #9: Not gonna mince words here, Harry straight up sucks. RIP to the great Alan Rickman, but they really did him dirty by putting him at the head of this plot line. Not only do we not really get a resolution or closure to what happens with Harry and his family at the end of the movie, but there’s hardly any ‘high points’ at all here, leaving the rest of the film’s love stories to keep the viewer from spiraling into a depression as they watch Harry and Karen’s relationship dissolve over two and a half hours. The only redeeming part of this arc is that we get a bit involving Mr. Bean.
#8 – Juliet, Peter, and Mark
Overview: Juliet and Peter are newlyweds, and Juliet believes that Peter’s best man – Mark – hates her. In reality, Mark is in love with Juliet, but has never had the courage to confess it, since she was in a relationship with his best friend. He eventually confesses his love covertly to Juliet, and they part ways as friends.
Why it’s #8: The above “cue card scene” is probably one of the most recognizable rom-com scenes of all time, and I get nauseous every time thinking that Chiwetel Ejiofor is about to pop out of the front door with a baseball bat and chase his buddy down the street. I know the reveal that Mark actually has had feelings for Juliet for quite some time is sweet to some – but this dude to me is just a shitty friend who really needs to find a girl of his own.
#7 – Sarah, Karl, and Michael
Overview: Sarah works at Harry’s company, and has secretly been in love for years with her co-worker, Karl. They connect at a Christmas party, but Michael – Sarah’s mentally ill brother – constantly calls her for help, and has put a strain on Sarah’s personal life. Michael’s involvement threatens to drive a wedge between her and Karl as well, after she finally gets his attention after waiting so long.
Why it’s #7: Did I say that #9 was depressing? Because this is hands-down way worse. Sarah’s obligation to her brother prevents her from actioning on the affection she’s had for her coworker for years – even when he reveals that the feelings are mutual. Just a tough scene all around here, and Love, Actually’s screenwriter Emma Freud confirming that she’s forever “doomed” just adds insult to injury.
#6 – Colin, Tony, and the American girls
Overview: Colin and Tony aren’t exactly “ladies’ men”, and Colin is fed up with striking out with British women. Colin decides that his British-ness will CRUSH in America, so he takes a trip to scenic Milwaukee, Wisconsin in search of American women who will be turned on by his accent. He finds a few of them.
Why it’s #5: Now that we’ve got the depressing story arcs out of the way, let’s talk about foursomes! Colin is kind of a shit head, and you might think this is one of those arcs where there is literally no possible way that this will end up going in the character’s favor… But boy would you be wrong. Colin shows up in America, hops in a taxi, heads to the first random bar he comes across, and ends up hooking up with four American girls at the same time. Somehow, this is literally the most straightforward plot in the entire movie.
#5 – John and Judy
Overview: John and Judy are professional stand-ins for movies. They meet awkwardly while being body doubles for some sex scenes in a romance movie. John and Judy are perfectly normal chatting while basically dry-humping in the nude on camera, but are shy while off-set and even more awkward about professing their feelings for one another.
Why it’s #5: John and Judy have one of the lighter arcs in the movie, both in terms of humor and screen-time – but this is low-key one of the purest relationships in the whole film. John and Judy are open and honest with one another, share a couple of kisses, and can be scene later on after their story “wraps up” together at the Christmas show and the airport, leading us to believe that they ended up staying together. Hooray!
#4 – Billy Mack and Joe
Overview: Billy Mack, a tragically aging rockstar, mounts a career comeback by releasing a Christmas cover of “Love Is All Around” by The Troggs. He despises the song, but knows it’ll sell. Throughout the film, he berates and drags along his longtime manager, Joe, who deeply admires Billy and wants to see him succeed – even though he’s pretty much a complete prick.
Why it’s #4: From the opening scene of the movie, Billy Mack establishes himself as one of the movie’s primary comic relievers. His journey from burnout rockstar, to awful friend, to redeemed icon, to slightly-less-awful-friend, is pretty entertaining, and his confession that he actually does appreciate his manager Joe is pretty touching.
#3 – David and Natalie
Overview: David (who is Karen’s brother) has been recently elected as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He finds himself accidentally and awkwardly flirting with Natalie, a new member of his staff, but they keep their admiration for one another at a distance. Over the course of the film, David battles with whether he should pursue a relationship with Natalie, who secretly wants nothing more than to be with him – but considers herself too far below his station to confess her affection.
Why it’s #3: Now we’re down to the “Big 3” of the movie, each of which could easily jockey for any of the top 3 spots on any given watch. David and Natalie’s story is pretty great (and probably the funniest of the top 3), and is just in absolutely elite company with the next two arcs. This is still one of my favorite rom com stories of all time, regardless of how it places on this list.
#2 – Daniel, Sam, Joanna, and Carol
Overview: Daniel is in mourning over his wife Joanna, and is doing his best to raise Sam, his stepson. Sam falls for an American middle school classmate, also named Joanna, and wants to learn the drums to impress her. Sam and Daniel both learn a lot about themselves as they each learn how to express their feelings in new ways towards each another, and towards the ones they care about.
Why it’s #2: It’s tough to beat a story that involves loss, trauma, young love, and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. Sam is hurting, but not the way his stepfather thinks. He’s determined to learn to play the drums (inside a damn month!) to impress Joanna. He does just that, and him sprinting through the airport to meet her at the end is simultaneously adorable – and alarming considering the lack of airport security. Also, it’s cool to see Daniel potentially find a new spark in one of Sam’s classmates’ parents. Makes you all warm and fuzzy.
#1 – Jamie and Aurélia
Overview: Jamie is a writer, and attends Juliet and Peter’s wedding alone, as his wife fakes being sick to cheat on Jamie with his brother. Jamie finds out, and exiles himself to his cottage in France, where he meets his new housekeeper, a Portuguese woman named Aurélia. Aurélia does not speak English, but both she and Jamie secretly harbor deep affection for one another, which blossoms throughout the film.
Why it’s #1: I’m gonna do my best to not cry while typing this, because I’m watching the above clip in the background at the same time. This is the most beautiful love story I’ve ever seen. Jamie, at the lowest point of his life, ends up falling in love with a woman who can’t communicate with him – and who loves him back. They secretly learn each other’s languages towards the end of the movie, and Jamie flies to her home in Portugal to sweep her off her feet in broken Portuguese. And what does Aurélia do? Reveals she’s been practicing english as well. That’s it, here come the waterworks again.
There you have it folks, our first ever Love Actually Subplot Power Ranking list. If you know us, you know we only write blogs about the most critical and up-to-the-minute topics, and this was absolutely no different.
What’s your favorite subplot in Love Actually? Or what’s your favorite love story in a holiday movie? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter at @WickedGoodGames.