Love, Actually… Communication is Key

Author: Don Schapira, Q.Med

Spoiler Alerts for the movie Love Actually…

‘Tis the season to question what the greatest Hollywood contributions are to the holidays. From ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ to ‘Die Hard’, this fun debate rages annually. While some people may disagree as to whether it deserves a spot in the top 3, 5 or 10, the movie ‘Love Actually’ invariably enters the discussion. For many reasons, this movie resonates with us, and provides the opportunity for reflection on our own stories. The plot of ‘Love Actually’ centers on 9 disparate, yet at times interlinked, stories and aspects of love. From the magical, romantic and fantastical, to the heartbreaking and lonely. It provides the viewer with the opportunity to question what love means to them. As a mediator, I deal with a wide range of conflict, many due to poor communication. I can’t help but wonder where each story could have ended if they simply communicated a bit better. So, lets give that a try, actually…

Whether we cheer at Colin’s escapades in Wisconsin, Sam’s courageous leaps through airport security, Jamie’s declaration of love in broken Portuguese, Prime Minister David’s insight, and Billy Mack’s eureka moment of what true love really is to him. Or appreciate John and Judy’s chaste romance, Mark’s cue card message, and Sarah’s devotion to family, or even empathize with Harry and Karen’s sad new reality, one thing we certainly can do, is rate their communication skills.

Before we begin, a few ground rules:

  1. You’ve seen the movie Love, Actually…. preferably several times.
  2. There is (almost) no science behind these ratings.
  3. Refer to rule #1

Colin & The American Girls

One thing that most people agree is that Colin certainly believes in himself. Once he confirms his ambition, he crafts his plan, assertively communicates it, and sets ideas into action. Once he arrives at his destination, he meets a group of women who are just as assertive in their communication as he is. There is no inhibition, no fear and no opportunity for misinterpretation. They show vulnerability when necessary, for example – as they describe their decreased financial situation and inability to afford casual comforts, like extra beds, or even pajamas.

Communication Rating: A+

John and Judy

These two remind us that any physical environment, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for some, does not have to stand in the way of proper, clear communication.

Being true to who you are, in any circumstance, results in an authenticity that creates a path for trust and romance to flourish. Even though their day jobs may be as stand ins for more adult oriented cinema, their authenticity results in a chaste courtship as they desire to save themselves for marriage.

Communication Rating: A

Mark and Juliet

Communication can come in all shapes, sizes and cue cards. Avoiding situations and not discussing real, raw emotion can hamper, and even destroy friendships. Mark’s self described ‘self-preservation’ created distance with his best friend due to his unrequited emotion towards Juliet.

Had he continued to let fear dictate his actions, the fractures in their relationship could have become unfixable. Instead, Mark chose to find a different way to articulate his feelings, with cue cards. While he was direct and clear, he still did not provide an opportunity for shared discussion and exploration, but It was still a memorable and courageous attempt.

Communication Rating: C

Sarah and Karl

Of the two more sober aspects of love presented in the movie, Sarah’s story is perhaps the most divisive. It requires the audience to reframe their own perception of what love really is. While her situation at home is a complex one, having to care for a mentally ill family member residing in an institution, her attraction towards a co-worker may have had a fighting chance had she communicated her situation, and worked with Karl towards finding a workable solution while discovering boundaries together. Sarah’s communication skills are notably delayed by two years, seven months, three days and I suppose an hour and thirty minutes.

Communication Rating: D-

Prime Minister David and Natalie

For this story of love, we may have to suspend belief as we are asked to agree to the premise that an American President could be a smarmy, nationalistic, misogynist, but if we dare to agree, we can gain insight into the damage avoiding difficult conversations can have on relationships. The difference between perception and intent, without clarification and explanation of either, could result in ending a relationship or even needing to visit dozens of homes singing Good King Wenceslas. Had the Prime Minister clearly communicated his perception, he may have avoided an albeit entertaining press conference and being exposed at a child’s school play.

Communication Rating: C-

Sam and Joanna

For all the unbelievable aspects of this story – which is more of a stretch, learning the drums in a few short weeks, or surviving a breach in post 9/11 airport security? – the undeniable moral is that perseverance can accomplish anything. While I do agree that we sometimes must wait for an opportunity to have a vulnerable discussion, I fear that most of us try to find the ‘perfect’ opportunity and invariably miss our chance, as almost happened to Sam. Had it not been for a very specific series of events that allowed him to finally catch up to Joanna moments before she enters her plane, in time to profess his love, his opportunity would have been lost. While exceedingly romantic, we must remember that Joanna did in fact know his name, and perhaps she felt the same. On an unrelated note, how many Claudia Schiffer look-alikes really exist?

Communication Rating: B

Harry and Karen

This story opens a window into the lives of a normal nuclear family of four in suburban London. While Karen is a stay-at-home mom, Harry runs a successful business and they share a seemingly wonderful bond, until an affair upends the happy home. The opportunities for healthy communication are consistently by-passed between these two. If Harry was unhappy, it was his responsibility to communicate his dissatisfaction and address it.

When Karen noticed a moment at the corporate Christmas party that raised her concern, it was her responsibility to address it and work with Harry to create the appropriate boundaries. In a 2015 screening, director Emma Freud updated viewers as to the fate of Harry and Karen, stating “they stay together but home isn’t as happy as it once was”. A sorrowful fate that bad decisions and poor communication played enormous roles in creating.

Communication Rating: F

Billy Mack and Manager Joe

Communication comes in many forms, from verbal, non-verbal, talking, listening, tone and of course body language. Billy Mack, an aging Rock n’ Roll legend communicates clearly throughout with his body language, but perhaps lacks clarity throughout the movie, until, of course, the end. Never lacking in confidence, especially during a daring concert performance on live television, Billy eventually discovers where his true heart lies during the holidays. Skipping out on an opportunity to celebrate the holidays with Elton John and the inherent entertainment that affords, Billy instead chooses to celebrate with his Manager Joe, clearly and concisely communicating his feelings and plans for an enjoyable evening.

Communication Rating: B+

Jamie and Aurelia

I’ve written this with the view of asking you to believe in communicative power. I know I

seems an insane person – because I asks you to rate movies – but sometimes things are so transparency, they don’t need evidential proof. Communication is sometimes liking a new language learning, but with the efforts coming enormous rewarding. Remembrance – Sometimes just try your principal effort, is actually pretty quite good enough for message to cross proper.

Communication Rating: A+++

So agree or disagree on where Love Actually rates in terms of the best Christmas movies, just know that whenever I get gloomy with the state of communication in the world, I think about the opportunities we have to gain insight into our communication. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love, and the opportunity for healthy communication, is everywhere.

If you have conflict at home, or are interested in additional communication training, be sure to connect with us at

Happy Holidays from the entire team at Fresh Start Mediation.

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