As the old year turns to the new, we become reflective. We think of our blessings, trials, challenges, and our hopes and dreams for the year to come. When we consider all this, it’s only natural we think of love. What, after all, is more important than love? Perhaps no modern cinematic tale more accurately (or more hauntingly) presents love’s all-important nature than 2003’s Love, Actually. I’ve always loved (hmm…that seems redundant) this film because it celebrates love in so many shapes and forms. It shows us romantic love, platonic love, familial love, sacrificial love, unrequited love, new love, old love, love won…and love lost. Of it all, Mark’s story teaches us the most important lesson. We should pay attention, careful to heed its warning.
So what exactly does Mark’s story teach us then? Well, to give the words of my favorite superhero to Mark, “The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody told you it was a happy tale, if somebody said I was just your average guy, not a care in the world…somebody lied. But let me assure you, this, like any other story worth telling, is all about a girl.” Which girl? Why Juliet of course! Close your eyes (I mean metaphorically, since you’re probably reading this with your eyes) and let me paint you a picture with my imagination brush. Imagine the following…
You’re in love with the girl of your dreams; your soul mate perhaps; someone with grace, intelligence, wit, beauty, and charm; someone who could easily be described as the English Natalie Portman which is nothing to sneeze at because the only thing that could make Natalie Portman more perfect is an English accent (also, this comparison is spot on because Keira Knightly literally played Sabé who was literally the double for Queen Padmé Amidala in The Phantom Menace so BOOM). You love her. You think about her. You dream about her. You see your future intertwined with hers. She completes you. BUT WAIT WHAT’S THIS?? OH YEAH THAT’S RIGHT SHE’S ACTUALLY DATING AND NOW MARRYING YOUR BEST FRIEND PETER AND YOU TOTALLY GET TO WATCH THIS ALL PLAY OUT RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU AND IT WILL FILL YOUR LIFE INVADING YOUR THOUGHTS AND INFECTING YOUR EVERY DAY LIKE A PLAGUE LITERALLY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Oh, and she’s totally marrying him AT CHRISTMAS TIME too so you get to think of this dagger to your heart and soul every year in an extra special way as it forever pollutes your personal experience of what was once the most wonderful time of the year.
Yay for love…
So you fidget. You pine. You are so in your own head you totally fuck up your recording of their wedding because all you end up doing is filming her for the entire day which is more than a little awkward should anyone especially your BEST FRIEND and/or his NEW WIFE ever ask to see it. But then, after sighing, pining, crying, and lamenting, you decide to move on. That sounds like a plan, right? So how do you move on exactly? By doing SOMETHING SUPER ROMANTIC FOR HER.
“Enough. Enough now.” REALLY?!? How is that enough?? How do the three of you EVER have something remotely resembling a normal life? Sure, Peter doesn’t know any of this happened. But you both do. Do you sit with unrequited love eating away at you, tearing you apart slowly each and every day until they die together happily-ever-after while you die bitter and alone? Do you settle down with a rebound lover, a second-place finisher who doesn’t even know she took second and forever struggle as your relationship doesn’t live up to your imagined ideal? Or does their marriage start to crumble, a little more each year, as Juliet takes everything Peter does that bothers her and compares it to an idealized version of you? Do they break-up and you end up with the aforementioned girl of your dreams? Great! Now either you realize what you thought you’d have isn’t really what you have OR you legitimately find a blissful vision of paradise together. That’s fun, right? Now your former best friend gets to watch you live the life he thought was his as his becomes a pale shade of himself, forever wrapped in shattered happiness and rejected love. Because, let’s be honest, unless you’re George Harrison and Eric Clapton there is NO WAY you break-up a marriage and remain friends. It just doesn’t work.
Okay though, but let’s imagine this now. Are your eyes still closed (metaphorically speaking)? Are you still imagining? Let’s walk this road.
Let’s say you’re really trying to make it “enough now.” You really want Peter and Juliet to have a happy and loving life together. You really want to try and move on. So you decide to leave. You’ll always carry the hole in your heart she was meant to fill, right? Right. How could you ever fully get over this girl? She’s everything.
She’s the type of girl who makes your heart sing.
But she’s also the type of girl you could easily imagine becoming a Pirate Queen.
Or a kick ass bounty hunter.
But she also seems like royalty.
And she rings with the truth of great literature.
And she’s certainly the person you’d like to spend your last day with if the the end of the world was nigh.
So you’ll never really get over her. But why live with SEEING THEM TOGETHER each and every day for the rest of your life? That would be masochistic on a deeply disturbing level. So you move. You leave town. Hell, you leave the country. You’re going to find a new life! Even if your love was rejected, you’re still going to try and build a happy life for yourself. Good for you! And what does this new life you’ve built look like?
Hell on Earth. Literally, your new life is HELL ON EARTH. Aren’t you glad she didn’t love you back? Welcome to second place. This is what it looks like. How does that one kiss she gave you feel now?
You’ve descended into a haunted half-life. Everywhere you look you see the terrifying visage of soulless, flesh-eating monsters. Where you once saw living, beating hearts now you find only the walking dead. You kill these monsters lest you become one yourself…but in the process of killing them you must face the question of whether or not you’re the real monster anyway. Every moment of every day begins to feel like a never-ending fight for survival inside a brutal, nightmarish, dystopia. And to what end?!? Why are you even fighting to live through the day?!? So you can do more of this tomorrow forever and ever until you die the violent death you can never escape, only stall. But Peter and Juliet are really happy together! Yay…
But it’s not all bad, right? As you fight each and every day to protect this brutal imitation of life you’ve carved out for yourself you still have your new friends and surrogate family around you. It can’t be all bad when you have support from the ones you love, right? WRONG. In this loveless hellhole you now inhabit you’ll get to watch each and every person you know and love die horrifically in front of you while you’re powerless to save them…except for your one, weird redneck hillbilly friend who for some unknown reason becomes strangely hotter (and more emo) with each passing year.
Stephen Stills once sagely sang, “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.” That’s all well and good until you look around and realize, once Juliet has rejected your soul offered to her inside messages calligraphied across poster board and wrapped in Christmas carols, the one(s) you’re with end up looking a little rough around the edges. They also look kind of blood-thirsty, relentless, and murderous too.
So, as this new year dawns and we reflect on our blessings, trials, challenges, hopes, and dreams – especially of love – may you find all you seek. Because if you’re chasing love and it leaves you walking down the road alone carrying nothing but your boom box and hopes of moving on…YIKES. In that case you better watch out because your next act is going to be BRUTAL. But if there’s any solace to be found, it’s this. Remember, love actually is all around…until it isn’t. Then there’s zombies and blood and horror…so, so much horror. Happy New Year!