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Bairbre Power: 'I've only just recently realised the 'hidden clue' in Love Actually'

Mid Life


Emma Thompson consoles Liam Neeson in Love Actually. Photo: Universal Pictures/Photofest

Emma Thompson consoles Liam Neeson in Love Actually. Photo: Universal Pictures/Photofest

Emma Thompson consoles Liam Neeson in Love Actually. Photo: Universal Pictures/Photofest

It's the movie moments that I love most about Christmas. Love Actually, Home Alone 1 and 2 and The Holiday are up there along with sausage stuffing, frangipane mince pieces and the smell of fir and eucalyptus permeating the house.

Years ago, I'd have all the movies lined up in DVD format, primed to pull out and watch over the long days of Christmas, but nowadays, I just throw on Netflix and we've been known to watch them in the middle of August. I know the movies so well by this stage, I can actually recite some of the lines - like Hugh Grant's prime minister character commenting at the beginning of Love Actually.

You know the bit about whenever he gets gloomy about the state of the world, he thinks about the arrivals terminal at Heathrow Airport, the pure uncomplicated love felt as people welcome their friends and family home, where you'll find that love actually is all around. Fifteen years later, those sentiments are all the more powerful because of the complexities and fears in pro-Brexit Britain. During London Fashion Week last September, I had a Love Actually moment and took a water bus down the Thames for a better view of where the wedding scene was shot.

Every time I watch the 2003 Christmas-themed romantic comedy film written by Richard Curtis, I invariably comment on the slick editing and, after a glass of Prosecco, I've been known to hurl myself off the couch at the first strains of Girls Aloud's rendition of the Point Sisters' Jump (For My Love) and boogie away, much to the amusement of my dog, as I emulate Hugh Grant bum wiggle and dance the stairs of No 10. Apparently Grant was against introducing the dance sequence in the movie, but they did it on the last day of filming and it works a treat at mixing up the emotions. I, on the other hand, do not achieve quite the same comedic effect in the space between the telly and the couch.

Recently, I was taken by surprise when friends were discussing their favourite festive movies and the 'hidden clue' in Love Actually. I've watched that particular movie at least 20 times, so how did I not pick up on it when Liam Neeson's widowed character, Daniel, gets it wrong and calls Carol - his new love interest played by Claudia Schiffer - the wrong name.

He only goes and calls her Karen (the name of his friend played by Emma Thompson, who he unburdens his grief to) but Claudia, I mean Carol, corrects him quickly. To hardcore Love Actually fans, it's the ultimate unwritten clue from Curtis and his scriptwriter wife, Emma Freud, that Daniel was in love with Karen. Tell me a woman, or indeed a man, who wasn't moved watching Emma Thompson crying as she listens to Joni Mitchell's 'Both Sides Now' as she faces the reality of her husband's infidelity.

I was never a Joni Mitchell fan, preferring Joan Armatrading and Carole King, but that sequence never fails to move me.

Nine years ago, I took myself off to New York rather than burn turkey for two. That year, 'It's Complicated' was the big movie opening on Christmas Day so we took ourselves off to watch the Nancy Meyers film starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.

In spite of years of watching back-to-back films at home, it did seem just a little bit weird being in a cinema on December 25, but that didn't stop me enjoying myself. I loved it. I laughed like a drain. I wanted Meryl Streep's kitchen and each time I watch the movie now, I take even more photos of the kitchen I want one day with its sleek black panelled windows.

When the hacienda-style house in Santa Barbara came on the market for gazillions of dollars, I pored over all the photographs. One day I hope to have such windows. I can picture myself in such a vaulted-ceiling kitchen, making my Christmas stuffing with cranberries and taking my frangipane mince pies out of the press, complete with Aldi box.

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The Holiday lets me do more property daydreaming. I love Cameron Diaz's 'house' in Pasadena, designed in the 1920s by Wallace Neff. There are movie nerds who will spot all this trivia - like when Jude Law's hair colour dramatically darkens up at the end - but I'm over analysing the nonsensical timelines in it. I'm happy out just crushing on these Christmas movies.

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