The Love Actually script is brimming with holiday cheer and writing lessons.
I was late to the party when it came to seeing Richard Curtis's masterpiece, Love Actually. One of my professors in college put it on as an example of a movie that took an interesting look at a multi-POV narrative. I have to admit that I didn't have high hopes when she put it on, but I quickly found myself emotionally identifying with the characters on many different levels.
To this day, I look forward to watching this movie every year and frequently am surprised by the new connections, cameos, and layers I find with each viewing.
I think there's a lot to learn from this beautiful look at love. So, cozy up to someone you care about and let's see what we can unwrap this year.
3 Lessons from the Love Actually Screenplay PDF (Free Script Download)
1. Characters with Clear Motivations
One of the more astounding things Curtis juggles in this screenplay is a massive list of characters. The cast in this movie is incredible. And one of the reasons why he was able to cast such an all-star lineup is that every role has clear motivations.
There's a tempted husband, a tortured writer, a lustful waiter, a shy pornographer, a jealous buddy, a nervous prime minister, a hopeful kid, a mourning widower—and that's just the fellas! We also have a jilted wife, a desperate sister, a worried newlywed, a hopeful secretary, a frustrated maid, and a Christmas lobster.
I know that's the CliffsNotes on most of the roles, but I think we can agree each person in the movie wants something tangible. These tangible goals give us something to track across the many narratives and something to root for so we get emotionally invested.
2. Conflict in Every Scene
We talk about this all the time, but you see movies fail at this too often.
In this movie, every scene has some sort of conflict. Maybe the best version of this is when Alan Rickman is trying to buy a necklace, and Rowan Atkinson is preparing his gift wrapping. We have a clear goal in this scene, getting out unnoticed, and a clear thing standing in the path, a clerk who is a little overzealous with his customer appreciation.
This conflict makes the most of something and gets a laugh out of us. It also pays off later when his wife doesn't receive the necklace.
3. Did They Get What They Wanted?
When I work with beginning writers, I tell them this is the most important question at the end of their screenplays. Do your characters get what they wanted?
In a romantic comedy like this one, that has to be answered clearly. But it does not need to mean the same for everyone. Sure, Colin Firth gets the gal, Liam Neeson gets Claudia Schiffer, and Andrew Lincoln gets closure, but Emma Thompson does not get that necklace. In fact, she does get a hard look at who her husband has become, and gets someone willing to work it out with her. This goes hand-in-hand with motivated characters and tangible goals.
Make it clear to the audience if characters got what they wanted and how that changed them over the course of the story.
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