There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who think Love Actually is a terrible, hackneyed, lazily anti-American trash bin of a movie, and philistines with no taste. Despite the presence of many wonderful actors who I adore in pretty much every other movie (I’ll wait while you collect yourself after thinking about Emma Thompson’s hankie-dampening scenes), I feel myself getting crabby every time I ponder its cheap, hacky, and did I mention lazily anti-American schlock. I always took comfort in the fact that writer/director Richard Curtis at least left the homosexuals out of his sugary parade of vignettes.
This week, Entertainment Weekly, via BuzzFeed, surfaced some material from the Love Actually DVD that made me realize that were it not for a storytelling snafu, I might have been won over by this terrible movie.
On the DVD, Curtis describes a storyline that was written and filmed but had to be cut from the final version when an element in another story was changed. The plot involved Anne Reid, who viewers would first meet as a stern headmistress, only later to learn that she was a lesbian whose lover, played by Frances de la Tour, was terminally ill.
The scene is a lovely portrait of domestic bliss at a very difficult time. Reid feeds and comforts her feisty partner, who in turn teases her about acting “pompous” at school and about her poncey taste in sausages. It’s loving and tender and would surely have elevated the nonsense that surrounded it.
In 2003, the same year that Love Actually was released, Reid had the role of her career in The Mother—as a grandmother who becomes involved with a workman half her age, who happened to be played by Daniel Craig. The sex scenes in The Mother were frank and beautifully filmed by director Roger Mitchell. It would have been quite the year for Reid if her performances in both movies had made it to cinema screens.
From the perspective of 2015, it’s weird to realize that Anne Reid played a stern lesbian headmistress a decade before she played a stern lesbian headmistress’s mother on Last Tango in Halifax. In recent years Frances de la Tour has also been a key player in a wonderful bit of gay culture, in her role as sexy septuagenarian Violet in the fabulous Britcom Vicious.