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Holiday Romance Movies and Shows Like ‘Love Actually’

Since its release in 2003, “Love Actually” has become the official holiday rom-com to watch year after year—with friends, alone with wine, or with an obliging partner. It’s become so inextricably tied to the holidays that it’s now practically as much of a ritual as decorating the tree. It’s been 17 years, folks. May we introduce a new holiday rom-com to adopt into your December regimen? Presenting “Love Me,” a cozy, romantic, feel-good series that will take the torch from “Love Actually” and help you get through the holidays going forward.

Why You Will Love “Love Me”

The story follows an endearingly flawed and relatable family, the Matssons. After suffering a significant loss in the household, the patriarch and his two grown children must navigate both grief and that precarious terrain that is searching for love. Twenty-something Aron thinks he’s found his soul mate, but her hard-partying ways make him feel more anxious than loved. Aron’s dad, Sten, finds himself suddenly single again as he approaches old age. Are second chances in life possible? And will Sten be able to take that leap?

But at the heart of the story is Clara, played by the show’s creator, Josephine Bornebusch. She’s a successful obstetrician, but society doesn’t seem to care much when she’s also a 37-year-old single woman. The excruciating irony of her situation, and that of real-life women everywhere, is that, because of her age range, the dating pool is abysmally thin, making each blind date worse than the last.

The show opens with the last straw: a man who not only resembles a circus clown, but is a narcissistic cheapskate to boot. Needless to say, Clara is ready to quit dating altogether. Wouldn’t you know it? That seems to be the cue, at least in the rom-com universe, for a handsome and emotionally available stranger to appear. But that’s hardly the happy ending.

Like “Love Actually,” what makes “Love Me” endearing is its authentic portrayal of life and all of its messiness. Real life doesn’t wrap up neatly in fairytale endings; it keeps going. Laura Linney’s story doesn’t end when she finally kisses Rodrigo Santoro, and Clara’s doesn’t end when she first kisses Peter. While the majority of rom-coms pipe in through the screen the intoxicating notion that all of your troubles will disappear the minute you meet your soulmate, “Love Me” cuts through that fog to remind us that in real life, relationships take work. But a realistic portrayal of love doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, or romantic. The fun of the show lies largely in watching Clara battle her own defenses and journey into her own emotional muck to find the clarity she needs in order to attain her happy ending. Can she find love, in spite of herself? If that isn’t compelling enough, the series is set in the snow-covered city of Stockholm, Sweden, which means it’s virtually a holiday postcard come to life. You will be immediately transported to the land of hygge, where there’s no shortage of cozy sweaters, red wine sipping, and long walks through the snow.

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How It Compares to “Love Actually”

Part of the charm of “Love Actually” is that it weaves together multiple storylines that span multiple generations of characters, at various stages of life. We see a marriage at a crossroads after the husband’s midlife crisis lures him to infidelity. We see a young wife learn a surprising secret about her new husband’s friend. And anyone who’s seen the movie was, without a doubt, rooting for that young doe-eyed boy suffering the pangs of his first love. In other words, love is tricky, love is unbearable, and love can mean everything, at any age. That’s exactly the message behind “Love Me,” which examines how three generations of people within one family deal with love’s struggles.

Varying ages isn’t the only thing these characters have in common. If you empathized with Liam Neeson’s widower character, you’ll feel all the feels for mild-mannered Sten, who is forced to take the romantic vacation he bought for his wife by his lonesome. If you screamed when Laura Linney got with Rodrigo Santoro, you’ll want to shout at the screen when Aron finally sees love clearly. And if you found Hugh Grant’s self-deprecating bumbling endearing, well let’s just say Clara gives him a run for his money when it comes to clumsy behavior in front of a love interest. So if you’re nervous about introducing a new element into your holiday traditions, the striking similarities between “Love Actually” and “Love Me” should help put your worries at ease.

Hopefully by now your curiosity has been piqued. At the end of the day, there’s no harm in giving a new series a try and diversifying your holiday programming. Colin Firth won’t be mad. And Emma Thompson will still be there in 2021 if you decide to skip a year. So come on—light a fire, pour a glass of red, and get to know a new romance story this holiday season. Get to know the Matsson family. You’ll see that love actually does exist outside of “Love Actually.”

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