The 'Love Actually' language mistake that still haunts me – Mashable

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Welcome to Fix It, our series examining film and TV projects we love — save for one tiny change we wish we could make.
Welcome to Fix It, our series examining projects we love — save for one tiny change we wish we could make.
Every year around Christmas, I watch the romantic comedy Love Actually with my mom. And every year, I endure a scene that drives me to distraction.
No, it’s not the “say it’s carol singers” sequence, though that still gets its fair share of lambasting during our yearly re-watch. Instead, it’s the moment when Jamie (Colin Firth) first meets Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz). More specifically, it’s a single line in that scene.
Here’s how it plays out. After discovering his girlfriend is cheating on him with his brother, Jamie retreats to his cottage in France. His landlady Eleonore (Élisabeth Margoni) introduces him to his new housekeeper Aurélia, who only speaks Portuguese. Jamie immediately fumbles his way through several languages and references in an attempt to connect with her.
Jamie: Buongiorno… Eusébio… molto bueno.
Eleonore: I think she’s 10 years too young to remember there was a footballer called Eusébio. And “molto bueno” is Spanish.
Jamie: Right.
Wrong! Or at least, partially wrong. Jamie’s “molto bueno” is a combination of languages, “molto” being Italian, and “bueno” being Spanish.
Neither is Portuguese, but I’m willing to give Jamie points for trying. What I’m not willing to do is let Eleonore’s correction slide. She informs Jamie of his error so smugly, even though she’s wrong herself. The man just went through a devastating breakup, Eleonore! He doesn’t need you to gaslight him into thinking Italian is Spanish! 
Despite her glaring error, Love Actually doesn’t present Eleonore’s mistake as its own joke. Instead, it treats Eleonore’s roasting of Jamie’s language skills as fact. The movie positions Eleonore as an authority figure in this scene, presiding over Jamie and Aurélia’s meet-cute and doling out language lessons as she sees fit. Because of this perceived authority and my own fear of looking stupid, it took me a few watches of Love Actually to finally get up the courage to ask my mom, “Wait, isn’t she wrong?” Turns out, she’d felt the exact same way.
I felt validated but more confused than ever. Jamie and Aurélia’s whole storyline is built around the idea that love can transcend language barriers. You’d think a plot about language would take extra care to make sure it properly identified its languages, right? Something wasn’t adding up.
That got me wondering… What if Eleonore’s mistake was on purpose? What if it was not an error at all, but rather an uber-subtle way to foreshadow Jamie and Aurélia’s love story?
Think about it: Here we are, blindly believing that Spanish is Spanish and Italian is Italian. Then, all of a sudden, here comes Eleonore convincing us (and Colin Firth) otherwise. With one throwaway line, the barrier between languages blurs. Now, we wonder whether language actually matters at all. 
As we question what we once thought was true, Jamie and Aurélia’s inevitable love comes into sharp focus. Thanks to Eleonore, chaos agent extraordinaire, it no longer seems improbable that a man who only speaks English and a woman who only speaks Portuguese can fall in love. We’re fully primed for a romance whose premise could really only work in early 2000s rom-coms, all thanks to one quick line.
Or it was just a mistake by writer and director Richard Curtis that nobody caught in time — which is even more infuriating! Somewhere, in an alternate universe, someone working on Love Actually took one peek at an Italian or Spanish dictionary, or had one conversation with someone who knows even a tad of either language, and so was able to avoid this mess.
But in this universe, we are not so fortunate. Instead, Eleonore’s confident correction haunts our Christmas rewatches, like the world’s most niche Dickensian ghost.
Love Actually (opens in a new tab)is available on Prime Video through IMDbTV. (opens in a new tab)
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Belen Edwards is an Entertainment Reporter at Mashable. She covers movies and TV with a focus on fantasy and science fiction, adaptations, animation, and more nerdy goodness.


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