"General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion... love actually is all around."
His sister Karen (Emma Thompson) going through a rough patch in her marriage when her husband Harry (Alan Rickman) finds himself drawn to his secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch)...
Harry's colleague Sarah (Laura Linney) finding herself torn between pursuing love with a long-time crush, Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) and her family obligations...
A mystery writer, Jamie (Colin Firth), decamping to France after his brother sleeps with his girlfriend and falling in love with the Portuguese maid Aurelia (Lucia Moniz), despite neither of them speaking each other's languages...
An aging and burnt-out old rocker (Bill Nighy) making a last stab at music success, with his manager (Gregor Fisher) attempting to moderate his lifestyle...
Karen's friend Daniel (Liam Neeson), a recent widow, trying to help his young stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) through his first case of heartache...
And more...The film is unabashedly sentimental, even though not all its stories feature Happily Ever After endings, and quickly became a holiday staple.
Author Catchphrase: Richard Curtis likes to have a Butt Monkey character in his movies called Bernard (his college girlfriend ran off with someone of that name and he's been taking revenge ever since). In this case it's Karen's "horrid son".
Bait and Switch: Mark gazes so longingly at the newly wed Peter and Juliet that Sarah asks if he's in love with him, leading the audience to think that this is the reason he's so hostile to Juliet. Only for him to be in love with Juliet after all, thus putting a fresh twist on a cliched situation.
Bittersweet Ending: Karen and Harry decide to just brave on, even though they may not be happy again for some time; Sarah decides she cannot give Karl a chance due to her caring responsibilities; Mark's final scene suggests that he's still not over Juliet.
Bowdlerise: Aside from the standard removal of curse words, etc, John and Judy's subplot is completely removed from the AMC airing. No doubt the editors realized that there would be absolutely no way to get around the fact that they're naked in nearly every single one of their scenes.
Early in the Aurelia scenes, she refuses a biscuit, saying that the writer would understand if he saw her sister. Near the end of the movie, he meets her sister, who's noticeably fat and homely.
Daniel's first scene is his wife's funeral, and there's a joke about him having a crush on Claudia Schiffer. He spends the rest of the movie trying to help his stepson Sam win over the girl he loves, which brings them to the school play, where he meets a woman played by... Claudia Schiffer.
British Accents: Colin is convinced that having one will make him devastatingly hot in America. He's right.
Bury Your Gays: Only in deleted scenes. The female teacher of one of Karen and Harry's kids is shown to have a female lover who dies in a later deleted scene.
California Doubling: Milwaukee, WI shows up in a brief scene, and everything from the airport sign to the bar looks like it was shot in California. The only thing that looks right is the shot of the house at the end of the scene.
Can't Believe I Said That: When meeting David the Prime Minister for the first time, Natalie worries about how she thought '(she) was going to say shit or something and ruin everything.' Then realises that she has, indeed, just said shit, and quotes this line verbatim.
Natalie: Hello, David. I mean, sir. Shit, I can't believe I've just said that. And now I've gone and said shit. Twice. I'm so sorry, sir!
David: It's fine, it's fine! You could have said fuck, and then we'd both have been in real trouble.
Natalie: Thank you, sir. I did have a terrible premonition I was going to fuck up on my first day. ... Oh, piss it.
Casanova Wannabe: Colin, at least in his home country; he thinks that going overseas to America will improve his luck with the ladies. It works.
Claudia Schiffer plays a lookalike of... Claudia Schiffer.
Harry Potter is mentioned. No word on who plays Professors Snape and Trelawney, or Rufus Scrimgeour either.
"... with Billy Mack as Rufus Scrimgeour"
Chew Out Fake Out: In a scene cut the theatrical release, (but included in the DVD extras), Karen is called to her son's school because his teacher is upset by a theme paper he wrote, in which he described how the world would be different if people's farts were visible. Karen listens attentively to the teacher and head, and then quietly takes her son into the hallway to talk to him;
Bernie: Sorry, Mum.
Karen: I'm sorry too, Bernie. Sorry and ashamed and embarrassed... that I have put you in a school with such total and utter pricks that they don't get a good gag when they see one! I mean, this is high-class comedy. This is first-rate stuff! Look, you're my son and obviously I have to love you. But right now, I really love you! (Mother and son dissolve into laughter)
A deleted scene reveals that the head also thought the idea of visible farts was funny, but had to not laugh because of her position of authority.
Clark Kent Outfit: Where was Karl hiding those arms!? (I mean, aside from in his shirt.)
Closed Door Rapport: Liam Neeson's character often talks to his step-son through the door, as Sam hardly leaves his room after the death of his mother. Sam mainly responds by leaving notes on the door itself.
Coitus Uninterruptus: While naked and simulating sex acts, John and Judy chat as easily and casually as if they were fully clothed.
Billy himself finds the whole idea ridiculous, even while recording it, and refuses to promote it without deep sarcasm. For instance, from a radio interview:
Billy: Oh come on, Mikey, you know as well as I do the record's crap. But wouldn't it be great if Number One this Christmas wasn't some smug teenager, but an old ex-heroin addict searching for a comeback at any price? All those young popsters, come Christmas Day... they'll be stretched out naked with a cute bird balancing on their balls, and I'll be stuck in some dingy flat with me manager, Joe, ugliest man in the world, fucking miserable because our fucking gamble didn't pay off. So if you believe in Father Christmas, children, like your Uncle Billy does, buy my festering turd of a record. And particularly enjoy the incredible crassness of the moment when we try to squeeze an extra syllable into the fourth line. Mikey: I think you're referring to 'If you really love Christmas...' Billy: 'Come on and let it snow'? Ouch.
Covers Always Lie: Rowan Atkinson is always shown to be a main character of the film but he only actually appears twice. He was supposed to have a larger role, but much of it was cut due to time constraints.
Mark's ending, to a lesser extent ( he doesn't expect to get Juliet from Peter.) It becomes an even lesser extent when considering that it's not that Mark didn't want to be friends with Juliet; he was so in love with her that his defense mechanism to save himself pain was to push her away. The movie makes it clear he loved his friend Peter deeply and loved Juliet madly, but couldn't reconcile his feelings towards both because they were getting married. So while he didn't blame either party, he still felt a little betrayed on the inside.
Disappeared Dad: We never do find out what happened to Sam's biological father, aside from the fact that he's not seen.
Drugs Are Bad: Hilariously subverted when Billy Mack makes an appearance on what appears to be a version of old Saturday morning show SMTV Live;
Billy: Oh...Hiya kids. Here's an important message from your Uncle Bill. Don't buy drugs. ...Become a rock star, and they give you them for free!
Eagleland: Mixed Flavour. The US President (played by Billy Bob Thornton as George W. Bush with an added dose of Bill Clinton's infamous womanising) is textbook flavour 2. It's the Sarah character, and her deep concern for her brother over her own happiness, which balances out the movie's portrayal of Americans. Joanna is also an American and is portrayed positively.
Eloquent In My Native Tongue: Aurelia is fluent in Portuguese, but starts out speaking no English at all, although she begins to learn. She falls in love with a writer whose English is perfect, but whose Portuguese is even worse than her English. We only see them a few weeks after they've each started learning, though.
Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Colin is certain his British accent will make him irresistible to American girls. He's somehow right, and it's taken to such an extreme it turns into pure parody.
Fanservice: Joanna Page (best known for playing Stacey in Gavin and Stacey) gets naked in a few scenes.
Femme Fatale: Mia. She's pretty and alluring but she is deliberately flirting and making moves on her married boss. During the company's Christmas party, she dances with Harry in front of his wife. She's even wearing a devil costume!
Funny Background Event: When Jamie is going to Aurelia's restaurant at the end, he walks past a wall with a completely unrelated French graffiti "TV: first cop in France".
Genre Savvy: Daniel and Sam come off as this, with a full knowledge of love films.
Sam: You know the films, they never get together until right at the very end.
Gossip Evolution: When Jamie comes to propose to Aurelia at the end, the rumour soon goes from "Father is about to sell Aurelia as a slave to this Englishman" to "Apparently he is going to kill Aurelia".
Grand Romantic Gesture: The Film. Mark pulls off a good one at the end with the cue cards, Jamie abandoning his family Christmas to fly out and ask Aurelia to marry him, the PM—the PM!—personally scouring an incredibly long street door to door to find Natalie...
Gratuitous Foreign Language: The ending of Aurelia's story plays out in Portuguese, with subtitles revealing that it's rather amusingly broken Portuguese. Of course, this is justified as the character speaking had just started to learn.
Worth noting: Colin Firth's Portuguese is actually quite accurate, and he makes next to none of the grammatical mistakes the subtitles accuse him of. His pronunciation is dodgy, however.
Hide Your Gays: The film manages to depict and celebrate every form of human relationship and connection, except one. Richard Curtis has said that an early draft of the screenplay had a subplot involving two schoolgirls attracted to each other, and a subplot involving the headteacher of the school and her dying female partner that was filmed but not included in the final cut is mentioned above as an application of Bury Your Gays. The treatment of queer characters in the Richard Curtis oeuvre makes interesting food for thought.
Homage Shot: Word of God has stated the scene where Mark reveals that he's in love with Juliet by showing her his tape of her wedding, which is entirely made up of shots of her is an homage to the ending of Cinema Paradiso.
Sam's shouting his crush's name when he's in the airport chasing her (which we don't hear) is a Shout-Out to The Graduate.
My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: An aversion. Colin Firth's character's Portuguese is mostly coherent; it's mainly plurals in the wrong places and incorrectly-conjugated verbs (common beginner's mistakes) rather than him saying something completely incoherent and out of context. There is an eel-reference at one point, but he has good reason to fear eel-attack at that point.
Also, the schoolgirls laughing at pictures of naked men in the gallery Mark works in:
Mark: Actually, they're not funny, they're art.
No Party Given: The Prime Minister, although Fridge Logic suggests he's a Conservative (he is clearly implied to succeed Tony Blair and seems to have achieved the position by virtue of winning an election rather than succeeding within the party). He also... admires Margaret Thatcher.
It'd be unusual for a General Election to be held in November, mind.
One Degree of Separation: Nearly all the main characters are linked directly or indirectly; only Billy Mack and his manager have no real connection to the other characters (unless you count his performance distracting a security guard at exactly the right time). Here's a chart◊ to make things easier.
Earlier than that, seeing the video gave Sam the idea to become a drummer to impress Joanna.
The song or music video was playing all over the place throughout the movie. In all honesty it was rather interesting how they were able to successfully work it into so many scenes so well.
Only in It for the Money: Billy openly, cynically and hilariously states that this is his sole motivation for recording "Christmas Is All Around".
Pluralses: When the Colin Firth character asks his housekeeper to marry him (in clumsy Portuguese), she says, "Thank you, that will be nice", and then when he remarks that she learned English too, she says, "Just in cases".
Present Peeking: Emma Thomson's character accidentally finds a golden necklace and gets excited. But her husband actually bought it for his Love Interest from work. When she opens the present of the same shape and size with her family, she's visibly disappointed because it's a CD. The CD is very meaningful, but she figures out he bought the necklace for someone else.
Self Plagiarism: Colin blowing it with the wedding cook by not realising he's insulting her own food is straight from a deleted scene from Four Weddings and a Funeral. Curtis even forgot to change the speaker's name for one line, so the script says it's spoken by "Charles".
Shout-Out: Billy's video is based on the video to "Addicted to Love".
The Screenplay of the Film has a picture of Billy and Joe embracing in a similar pose to the picture on the Fight Club page.
Singing Voice Dissonance: In-story, the Prime Minister has this reaction to his driver/bodyguard's (Gavin?) incredibly rich, deep and very very Welsh voice when they are entreated to sing Christmas carols by some pleading children while going door to door.
Richard Curtis was worried that Olivia Olson's singing voice would look fake coming from such a young girl, when in fact she actually was that good. The final version has her stopping for breath several times when she didn't actually need to.
What the Hell, Hero?: Did the Prime Minister of the UK just end the special relationship with the United States over a crush? And why the hell does everyone in Number 10 think this is such a great thing?
The whole point was that the US president was presented as an unlikeable slimy arse, who was using his political leverage to bully the UK. This was how the Bush/Blair relationship was popularly viewed in the UK at the time, with Blair as Bush's 'lap dog'. The incident between the President and Natalie was the metaphor that made the PM realise he should stand up to the President. The positive reaction to this event from the Number 10 staff (and viewers) was simply a bit of Patriotic Fervor, and admiration for his pluck in standing up to a President who was taking the special relationship for granted.
Also, it was political gold. He was viewed by the public as kind of a wimp up to that point. He told America to shove it and gushed all over Britain at the same time.
Daisy: We've been given our parts in the nativity play, and I'm the lobster! Karen: The lobster? Daisy: Yeah! Karen: In the nativity play? Daisy: Yeah, first lobster. Karen: There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus? Daisy: Duh.
There's also an octopus, penguins, a vomiting whale, a starfish and a Spiderman King.
You Are Fat: Poor Natalie has to deal with this from almost everyone apart from the Prime Minister. No wonder she falls for him.
Your Cheating Heart: Mia comes on to Harry constantly, and he either wants to sleep with her or already has by the time Karen confronts him.