A love letter to Love Actually | Vote for your favourite Christmas movie

HAPPY ENDING: The Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) and Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) in Love Actually.
HAPPY ENDING: The Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) and Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) in Love Actually.

‘TIS the season.

And no I don't mean for puddings, colourful lights and manic crowds at discount outlets.

I mean 'tis the season for watching Love Actually as many times as I can between the end of November and the end of Boxing Day.

'Tis also the season where I brace myself to defend this cinematic masterpiece against the naysayers and grinches who hate happiness and probably eat kittens.

I still struggle to understand why people hate Love Actually, despite my Facebook wall and email accounts being flooded with think pieces about how crap it is.( You can read them here and here if you need an antidote to this love letter to Richard Curtis).

But even as I trawl through the endless tomes of hate and bile, I still can't really understand what they are going on about and why they find the whole thing so offensive.

Sure, it is saccharine and some of the storylines are a little uncomfortable, but from the moment Hugh Grant discusses the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport, through the cheesy wedding scene where Keira Knightley looks like a goddess to brooding graphic designer Karl to Rowan Atkinson's career defining performance behind a shop counter to Billy Mac accusing the members of Blue of having small willies… it's just endless fun and happiness.

Love Actually pretty much sums up every Christmas experience I have ever had (except for acting as a stand-in for a skin flick… but I'm still young).

Avoiding the flirtatious advances of a slightly over-zealous co-worker at the office Christmas party, watching my partner do the same at theirs, being hopelessly in love with someone at Christmas and finding the most awkward and embarrassing way imaginable to tell them, helping friends through heartbreak, dashing overseas to find love there…

All wrapped up in festive paper and a killer soundtrack, Love Actually is, actually, a deeply fascinating exploration of the human condition.

For many of us, this is the time of the year where you reflect on the state of affairs in your platonic, familial or other love life.

And if you can't connect with at least one of the storylines in Love Actually you either have the most blessed life or mind-numbingly, bone-achingly boring one.

Moving away from how the film accurately holds a mirror up to life, there is the fact that this film is just bloody brilliantly written.

If you don't snort with laughter when Alan Rickman's Harry is buying a fancy necklace for his mistress Mia while his wife shops nearby and Rowan Atkison puts the final flourishes on the wrapping and Rickman rolls out that classic line 'what are you going to do next, dip it in yoghurt?' there's no hope for you.

If you don't feel a surge of unentitled parochial pride when Hugh Grant's Prime Minister stands up to Billy Bob Thornton's sleazy POTUS or get a lump in your throat when Emma Thompson sobs in her bedroom to Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now (famously, she cried through all seven takes) then you might need to check the hole in your soul.

I couldn't count the number of times I have watched Love Actually, it is my own private tradition to watch it as many times as I can around Christmas. I actually have the film's theme song as the ring tone on my phone.

What makes this obsession even more surprising is I normally have a strong allergic reaction to rom-coms, often resulting in hives and hyperventilation... or just  leaving the room when one comes on.

I prefer superhero movies or spy films, the only other rom-com I could say I seriously enjoyed was Amelie.

But Love Actually stands out, its head way above the crowd, it is funny and charming and easy to watch and you finish the film feeling better than you started..

If you don't think that, fine, you probably don't like baby seals either.

Nathanael Cooper is an entertainment writer with Fairfax Media

FATHERLY ADVICE: Daniel (Liam Neeson) provides some lessons in life for his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster).

FATHERLY ADVICE: Daniel (Liam Neeson) provides some lessons in life for his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster).