Plunging into ‘Love Actually’

Monday, September 30, 2019 - 10:37pm

Colin Firth in "Love Actually"

Colin Firth in "Love Actually" Buy this photo
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This is it, the writing opportunity I’ve been waiting for my whole life: the chance to wax poetic about a Colin Firth movie. 

When asked to think about the representation of paper in film, the immediate thought that comes to mind for most romantic comedy fanatics is this scene from “Love Actually.” I know it did for me. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know exactly which scene I’m talking about. 

In the scene, Jamie (Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”) is working diligently on his novel, which he tellingly chooses to write with a typewriter. Why use a typewriter? He could have easily used a laptop — 2003 is not as ancient a time as we believe it to be. There is something inherently romantic about a typewriter, though, and people who use them are unquestionably engaging in a kind of performance when they do so. The use of a typewriter, or any method of writing that doesn’t involve a screen for that matter, implies seriousness, traditionalism and poise. Some may even call it pretentious, though I’m not sure I agree. Regardless, whatever kind of person Jamie presents himself as through his writing setup is instantly deconstructed when his finished pages are blown out of his grasp by the wind and into the dirty, freezing cold pond right behind his cottage. 

Jamie’s housekeeper, the Portuguese-speaking and beautiful Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz, “Red Nose Day Actually”), immediately strips down to her underwear and dives into the pond, believing she is saving something that might be of significant literary value. Jamie knows what he’s written is not worth getting into that water for, and is thus shocked by Aurélia’s commitment to the cause. Regardless of whatever value Jamie’s writing might have, it seems to be that trying to save it is a futile gesture — I imagine the ink-printed words on the page would bleed to the point of unreadability. But Aurélia doesn’t have time to think of these logistics: She jumps right in, and Jamie is clearly moved by her behavior, by how much she believes in him. He follows her into the water. 

Jamie and Aurélia engage in both a literal and figurative stripping of layers, taking off their cardigans and plunging into uncertain terrain. Their individual ways of going about this are brilliantly revealing of them as people — while Aurélia takes off nearly all of her clothing and dives into the pond as though she’s a professional swimmer, Jamie leaves on everything but his sweater and clumsily falls into the pond instead of jumping. She is confident and determined, he is insecure and apprehensive, and they’re just now learning this about each other. Having come to understand the pointlessness of trying to save the paper, they laugh, and the rest of their love story is history.

The paper itself means nothing, of course. What matters is what the paper represents, what the thing printed on its surface signifies. In the case of “Love Actually,” what’s printed on Jamie’s pages probably isn’t even what matters — after all, he even says, “It’s not worth it, it isn’t bloody Shakespeare.” What does matter about this paper is that its plunge into the pond’s murky waters is what drags Jamie and Aurélia into the pond, allowing their romance to advance to new and uncharted territories.