People have told me a dozen time at least that I should watch the 2003 movie “Love Actually.” Last night I did.
Only once in a while a movie doesn’t just entertain you but rather knocks you over.
(Beware if you’ll be bothered by a few scenes of raunchy comedy including nudity).
My favorite of all the stories is the one about the English writer on holiday after the breakup of his marriage and the Portuguese cleaning woman. They can’t talk to each other. And they eventually begin conversing with each other each in their own language, knowing the other can’t decipher the words. But the audience knows that their words align remarkably, like two people who think in similar ways.
And they speak words of love that go unheard because language separates them. He drives her home after every workday. He says in English words she does not comprehend, “It is the time I look forward to most every day.” And she says in Portuguese that he cannot apprehend, “The hardest part of every day is leaving you.”
There are many other moments like that in the film, giving us unique windows on a few dozen individuals. The situations of love discovered, love lost, love longed for but not to be had, love ruined, love confused with sex, boredom with sex and longing for love, and love triumphing are worth seeing and learning from.
The premise at the beginning of the movie is worthy of reflection though slightly flawed. The narrator (I might need to watch again as I wonder if the narrator was one of the characters) says that he hears all over the place that the world has gone bad. But he doesn’t believe it. And when needs to restore his faith in life he goes to Heathrow Airport and watches the arrivals. Scenes of families receiving loved ones at the airport play in the background while he talks. A great diversity of people hug, show on their faces the emotions of affection and joy.
The narrator says he doesn’t believe the bad news about the world. It’s because he sees love actually all around.
The point is well-taken. Love is actually all around. Then why is the world bad? Presumably the movie was to make us think about this very question. The narrator may say that the arrivals at Heathrow dispel the darkness for him, but we know that though families love each other, though travelers are received with warmth at airport terminals, and though men and women fall in love, we still can’t translate our love for close ones to love for humanity.
Love is not only many-splendored, it is also elusive and an impenetrable mystery.
Love crosses the boundary between me and you. But how much of you can I understand? I can never enter your mind, possess your soul, or grasp your emotions for myself. The I and the you are always separated. Buber called it the I and the Thou and proposed a certain philosophy of knowing the other.
Buber said, “The world is not comprehensible, but it is embraceable: through the embracing of one of its beings.”
Yet somehow our love for a close friend, for a spouse, a child, or a greatly desired object of romance does not translate to universal love or world peace.
It’s something to think about when we see families reunited at airport terminals or a father walking in a parking lot holding the hand of his little girl.
Yeshua spoke about our imperfect love, our all-too-limited love. He said what we are lacking is the kind of love God has.
Perhaps in “Love Actually” that is represented in a small way by the woman who desperately loves a co-worker, but cannot give in to that love. She cannot give in because a mentally ill brother needs her constantly. He calls her with no regard for her schedule to complain and just to hear her voice. He tries sometimes to strike her. But he needs her.
And she loves him unconditionally. She accepts her own inability to find love because she must give her all-consuming love to a brother who only sometimes shows love in return.
And so, Yeshua said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” for this is the kind of love God has for the unlovely. “If you love those who love you, what reward have you?” Yeshua asks. Even the most selfish people on earth love a few people close to them. “Be perfect,” in love is what Yeshua means. Let love translate beyond the airport arrivals and holiday gatherings. Find a way to love the other, the unknown, the enemy.
Love actually is what we need. And the thing about Yeshua’s words is that he really lived them.