So, a soundtrack can really make (or break) a film. Love Actually is one of my favorite films (and, yes, I realize its a Christmas film, but I could watch it at any time in the year). And, I was thinking about it the today; it would be a completely different film without its soundtrack.
I love the film because you are so happy when Sam (played by Thomas Sangster) and Jamie (Colin Firth) triumph in love. You’re touched by Daniel’s (Liam Neeson) devotion to his recently passed spouse. You want to smack Sarah (Laura Linney) for letting Karl’s (Rodrigo Santoro) hot, mostly naked (Brazilian) personage go. You feel a sense of catharsis when Mark (Andrew Lincoln) finally says what he needs to say and moves on. You’re touched when Billy Mac tells his manager, whom he calls Chubs, that he’s come to realize that he’s spent his whole life with his fat employee, and in truth, “The People I love is, in fact, you.” And, you are devastated when Karen (Emma Thompson) is herself devastated after discovering her husband’s possible infidelity. (Oh, and the Prime minister/Natalie stuff is hilarious and wonderful.) But, you feel all of these things because of the soundtrack.
Karen tells Harry near the beginning of the film, after he asks why she still listens to Joni Mitchell, “I love her and true love lasts a lifetime. Joni Mitchell is the woman who taught your cold English wife how to feel.” And, Joni Mitchell sets the tone of their relationship. Her heartbrokenness is set against the background of Mitchell’s hauntingly beautiful “Both Sides Now” (which by the way, if you’re never actually listen to the lyrics, I really recommend it). Her heart breaks and so does yours while Joni Mitchell croons about having looked at love from both sides and after this coming to realize that she really doesn’t know love at all.
Karl and Sarah are set to Eva Cassidy’s “Songbird”. This was apparently the filmmaker’s second choice. He had imagined the scene to Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Come on Come on”. But, this tune really does end up being perfect and fitting in completely with the feel of the scene.
And, the ending of the film gets me every time, calling back to its beginning with the arrivals at Heathrow while “God Only Knows” plays on in the background. “God Only Knows what I’d be without you” the Beach Boys tell us as we see image after image of husbands, wives, daughters, sons, brothers, mothers, sisters fathers, friends reunite. Its such a powerful and all encompassing sentiment, What would we be without the people in our lives who love us? What would we be without the people in our lives that we love?
Its a good film, but how the music plays into the action really makes it remarkable.
Song: Both Sides Now
Performer: Joni Mitchell
Album: Both Sides Now
Performer: Eva Cassidy
Song: God Only Knows
Performer: The Beach Boys
Album: Love to Love