Richard Curtis: 12 things I've learned about love

What has the king of British romcom discovered about romance?

He’s the British filmmaker behind ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ and ‘Notting Hill’. His latest film ‘About Time’ is a time-travelling romcom. So what has Richard Curtis discovered about love?


‘The single thing that most speaks about love to me is the sculpture ‘The Pietà’ by Michelangelo. It’s the perfect expression of the love of a mother [The Virgin Mary] for her son. I’ve seen it in real life and it’s immensely moving. Jesus is so slight.’


‘As far as music is concerned, the ones that strike me as sounding most what love really feels like are the early Beatles love songs. Particularly ‘If I Fell’ and ‘And I Love Her’ off ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. And also the whole of the first album by Kate and Anna McGarrigle.’


‘The first girl I ever fell in love with was called Tracy Thompson. We were living in Sweden and I stole a ring from my mother’s jewel box and gave it to her one break time (I was eight). She threw it out the window into the snow. I never found it. Bad start.’


‘Somehow – and I include my films here – I’ve always found it hard to believe that the people in romantic films are actually going to stay with each other. The one where I really, really believe the couple are going to be with each other for life is ‘Brief Encounter’. And they’re the wrong couple.’


‘The person in film now who knows where the bone is buried on the subject of love is Drake Doremus. His films ‘Like Crazy’ and ‘Breathe In’ are exquisite. It surprises me he’s not more widely considered way ahead of the field.’


‘Best first line in a love song, from Nick Cave’s ‘Into My Arms’: ‘I don’t believe in an interventionist God.’ Crazy start to a crazily great love song.’


‘The second girl I fell in love with was Julie Andrews, particularly in ‘The Sound of Music’. The third was Sylvia Kristel, particularly in ‘Emmanuelle 2’. A big shift there…’


‘I’ve increasingly written in my films about that other love, the love that families feel for each other. I strongly advise everyone to see Sarah Polley’s extraordinary documentary ‘Stories We Tell’ about her family. It’s full of family love with all its complications.’


‘The most extraordinary thing I ever read about love was an article in The Sunday Times, where relatives of the victims of the 1973 Basel air disaster were asked to write 500 words about the people they’d lost. There was no skill, or professional writing – which made these strange nuggets of true sorrow better than any poem or story or film.’


‘Apart from Drake Doremus’s films, three recent masterpieces about love are ‘Lost in Translation’, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ and ‘(500) Days of Summer’. (By the way, my theory about the end of ‘Lost in Translation’ is that he makes a date with her to meet in Tokyo exactly a year later. If they both turn up, well, that’ll be something…)’


‘The fourth girl I fell in love with was called Carolyn Colquhoun. She broke my heart spectacularly, as a result of which I wrote about unbroken hearts for ten years. I owe her my movie career.’


‘One final film to recommend – itself an extraordinary act of love. It’s ‘Her Name Is Sabine’, made by French actress Sandrine Bonnaire about the sister she loves, now severely mentally ill. It’s a thing of amazing beauty and shows that love has no limits, and no end. It may change your life – it did mine.’

Read our ‘About Time’ review

There’s something of the trendy village vicar about Curtis’s view of British life: essentially conservative but not averse to the odd strum of a guitar. Like a well-worn sermon newly peppered with groovier words, ‘About Time’ is an update of Curtis’s earlier films for a generation of filmgoers now used to playful takes on genres and weeping at John Lewis ads set in tastefully tatty, upscale redbrick suburban homes. It’s oddly comforting.

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