2003 Running time: 135 Certificate: 15 Rating: 3

Synopsis

Blessed with more stars than a clear night in the Arctic, comedy writer Richard Curtis completes the romantic hat-trick that began with Four Weddings and Notting Hill. A mostly London-based collection of loosely interweaving vignettes, it gathers together lonely hearts from all over London - including the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) - while Colin Firth provides a little French diversion. Bill Nighy scores the most laughs as an ageing rocker. All in all, it's another snuggly, sugary and stammery smash.

Director

  • Richard Curtis

Cast

  • Hugh Grant

  • Colin Firth

  • Emma Thompson

  • Keira Knightley

  • Liam Neeson

  • Alan Rickman

  • Bill Nighy

  • Laura Linney

  • Rowan Atkinson

  • Martine McCutcheon

Review

Richard Curtis' directorial debut after scripting the likes of Notting Hill and Bridget Jones's Diary is a case of resistance being futile.

It could be viewed as a bleakly calculating piece of cinema with a super stellar cast fleshing out underwritten roles inside a plot of ludicrous complexity.

However, if you leave your prejudices and aversion to syrupy loves stories at the cinema door that's not how it plays.

It's complicated all right, but the principle narratives are devoted the screen time they need to work and the starry cast show why they're celebrities in the first place.

While the stories - vignettes really - are brashly cartoonish, the performances within are subtly nuanced, lending them greater depth and richness than you might expect.

Curtis - adeptly for a first time director - switches back and forth between almost a dozen storylines of varying prominence without losing sight of any.

There's requited love, unrequited love, lost love, new love, love misplaced and then found again, love across the language as well as the class barrier, young love and just, er, love.

It's found across a tea trolley at No10, in the South of France, in America (Wisconsin, to be exact), in the office, in the home and not at all.

The weaker threads - Grant's Blair-like prime minister improbably falling in love with the tea-lady (Martine McCutcheon) - are harmlessly amusing.

But real depth is economically reached, particularly in the relationship between the grieving widower Neeson and his stepson.

Clever editing - such as the Bay City Rollers' Bye Bye Baby being played at the funeral service of Neeson's wife and seguing the next scene at a wedding disco - never allows viewers time to get restless.

High points include Bill Nighy's knackered rock-n-roller (a renegade from Still Crazy) and a charming romance featuring two porn stars flirting innocently as they get down to the nitty-gritty.

It's sentimental. It's over-the-top. It's often embarrassing. It will make you laugh and cry. It's a nice way to spend two hours. It's a bit like being in love, actually.

Tim Evans

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