As Love Actually lands on Netflix in time for the Christmas season, we take a look at some other romantic films set in London that are perfect for lovers everywhere…
There are plenty of films set in London (it’s one of the most used locations in the world), but romance isn’t the first thing you think of when it comes to the capital city and the movies. However, we’ve scratched our heads and come up with these heart-melters that feature some famous landmarks and some very familiar faces.
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Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (2001)
Bollywood films tend to pop over to London on a regular basis with the mystery of ‘quirky’ English customs probably coming off as odd as anything Western audiences can imagine happening in India. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… was a huge hit when it came out and became the first Bollywood production to get a theatrical release in Germany. One plot line in the movie features Rohan (Hrithik Roshan) coming to London in an attempt to reunite his family. It might give tourists a romanticised look at the city, but what’s wrong with that?
About Time (2013)
Richard Curtis (more of him later) knows London. Well, perhaps a specific part of London… we can’t really imagine him or any of his characters having a large one in Hoxton on a Friday night. Still, the bits of London the director is familiar with do look great on screen. About Time is ostensibly a time travel romantic comedy, but the setting is a very real London town. Drunken nights out trying to figure out which branch of the confusing Northern Line to take are the sort of evenings pretty much everyone can relate to. Watch out too for an early appearance by Margot Robbie.
Man Up (2015)
This one sneaked up on us and isn’t that well-known outside of the UK. Using one of the busiest rail stations as a starting point (two characters are supposed to meet under the clock at Waterloo Station), things rapidly progress from there. We see plenty of Soho, which is not a popular location on film even though it is the heart of the movie industry in this country, and also a lot of the South Bank. If you live in the city, you’ll recognise plenty of it on screen. There’s also the added bonus of Lake Bell putting in the perfect romcom performance: quirky, cute and never annoying.
Sliding Doors (1998)
This quirky high-concept romantic comedy stars Gwyneth Paltrow in two roles. Well, actually it’s just one role, but two alternate timelines that depend on which train the main character catches at the start of the movie. Helen Quilley (Paltrow) has just been fired from her job in public relations and is rushing to catch an underground connection to get home. From here, we see a ‘what if?’ scenario that plays into the concept of multiverses and the countless choices any one person can make at any given moment. Don’t worry, the film doesn’t really delve into the quantum physics of it all, but rather the real-life drama that ensues.
Notting Hill (1998)
Here he is again, Mr Richard Curtis with another London-centric romance. Hugh Grant re-teamed with the writer following their runaway success with Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and this time they enlisted the Runaway Bride herself as Julia Roberts played the taxing role of a Hollywood actress who is under the constant glare of the media spotlight. You can still visit some of the locations from the movie, and it does make for a romantic escape from Central London, but on weekends it’s arguably even busier than Soho.
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Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Being able to put on an impeccable English accent must be a godsend for any aspiring American actress. Gwyneth Paltrow repeatedly went back to that well and portrayed many English characters early in her career. We’ve already seen her (dual) role in Sliding Doors, and here she is again in this well-known historical drama which can generously be described as a loose biopic. To be fair, Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes and a host of British luvvies are all excellent and, if you look hard enough around the city, you can still find some remnants of Shakespeare’s London.
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Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Unfairly mocked in recent years, the original Bridget Jones’s Diary (there have been two sequels since) is still a fantastically good film. Hugh Grant plays somewhat against type as a sleazy, yet handsome rogue, with the bumbling this time around left to the affable Colin Firth. The real star, however, is Renée Zellweger, who transformed herself from a Texan belle to an English rose for the part. She won over many naysayers in the process, but we remain dubious about the chances of Bridget being able to afford her lavish lifestyle on her meagre media salary. Be sure to visit Borough Market and seek out the exterior used for her flat.
As anyone who has ever been in love will tell you, it’s not all chocolates and Richard Curtis movies (that’s the last time we’ll mention him. Honest). The darker side of love is expertly explored in this movie in which Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen and Julia Roberts embark on a series of hook-ups that cause each of them endless pain. The performances are all superb (Portman and Owen were nominated for Oscars, respectively) and we also get to see a slightly more tarnished view of London thanks to the actions of the central characters.
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
A classic of 1980s working-class cinema (an often overlooked sub-genre in British cinema), My Beautiful Laundrette highlights tensions between the native English population of London and the immigrant Pakistani communities in the area. Omar (Gordon Warnecke) reunites with his old friend Johnny (an early appearance by Daniel Day-Lewis) and the pair become eventual lovers and caretakers of a laundrette business. Set in a grubby part of South London, the film (as the title implies) is ultimately a beautifully told love story.
I Give It a Year (2013)
Unsung comedy heroine of the moment Rose Byrne (Spy, Bridesmaids) stars in this British comedy about a couple who get married despite the doubts of their closest friends and family. There are some lapses in quality, but when it gets into its stride the film is genuinely hilarious. Stephen Merchant delivers one of the worst best man speeches we’ve ever seen and Byrne is as effervescent as ever. There’s plenty of scenes set in London too and, having been to most of them, we can attest to the realism depicted on screen.
A successful actress (Ingrid Bergman) might have her professional life in order, but her personal troubles are not going away. She’s given up hope of finding the right man, until the suave Philip Adams (Cary Grant) walks into her world and captivates her attention. The only problem is that everyone thinks Philip is already married, but will that stop her from falling in love? Once again, London features heavily in the movie and, even though it is a time that has long since passed, you can still find some remnants of the 1950s around town.