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Filmotomy Christmas Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 11

Most Heartfelt Gift-Giving Scene

To me Love Actually is an average film, (I know that many people love it), and I have never truly be won over by it. However, I will admit that there’s one scene which remains extremely powerful, and stands out. This is the scene when Karen (Emma Thompson) realizes that her husband Henry (Alan Rickman) is cheating on her.

It is Christmas Day, and Karen, receives a CD from Henry instead of the extravagant necklace she found in his coat pocket. Thompson’s acting here is on top form, her face showing how hard she is trying to hold in the emotional outburst that is building up inside her. We can see the devastation on her face as she sees that she has been given a CD, but in front of her children, she must not reveal her sorrow. Instead Thompson wears a large, painful grin, a mask of pain.

Karen makes an excuse, and retreats to her bedroom. In the safety of her bedroom, she breaks down as she as she realizes that Henry bought the necklace for another woman. When she first enters the bedroom, we see close-ups of photo frames containing photographs of happier times. It is now, that we realise that Christmas will always be a tainted time for this woman, and that she may never be the same.

Towards the end of the scene, Thompson ‘brings herself together’ as many of us Brits do, (we keep calm and carry on), and she wipes her eyes, makes the bed, and goes back to her family. We are left wondering how many other people have gone through a similar experience and have put on a brave face for the sake of Christmas? This scene helps to bring a dose of reality to Christmas. It isn’t all Christmas cracker jokes, egg nog and board games. Many families go through trauma during this time, barely getting through a day, and attempting to put on an act especially for the sake of children.

What makes this scene even more impressive is the fact that Thompson drew from real-life experience to nail the Love Actually necklace scene. According to Marie Claire, Thompson was able to capture Karen’s true emotions because she had been cheated on by a husband, as well, giving her a chance to really understand what her character was going through. Knowing this seems to add another layer to her performance, and we see a woman drawing on her own experience, opening herself up to the audience. Love Actually may not be the best ‘Christmas’ film ever made, but Thompson’s performance in that scene is priceless.

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