Love actually is all around in the 2003 British film Love Actually.
Seriously, just about every famous face in the epic ensemble ends up finding their person over the course of two hours of interweaving storylines that connect everyone from Harry Potter‘s Professor Trelawney (Emma Thompson) to Sherlock‘s Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman), Game of Thrones‘ Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), and The Walking Dead‘s Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln).
But it’s Lincoln’s Mark who has become the topic of an argument in the years since the initial Love Actually release — one recently born anew thanks to KROQ — that will likely never receive a resolution. In the film, Mark pines for his best friend Peter’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor) new bride Juliet (Keira Knightley), ultimately declaring his love by film’s end. So, the question is whether Mark is actually a heartbroken sap whose love could not be contained, or a seriously creepy stalker and terrible best friend. EW writers Shirley Li and Natalie Abrams offer up our arguments on each side, after which you can vote in our poll below and share your thoughts in the comments!
Mark is a lovestruck sap — Shirley Li
Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy watches girl marry his best friend and then chronicles the wedding by focusing the camera only on girl’s face.
Yeah, I know it’s creepy. You know it’s creepy. Andrew Lincoln knows it’s creepy. But as easy as it is to look at the “to me you are perfect” scene with a cynical eye because of its central character’s awkward, boy-objectifies-girl backstory, you have to take a few things into account: First, this is a Richard Curtis film loaded like Santa’s overflowing gift bag with plots, relationships, and stars who each get an average of about 12 minutes on screen — which means each storyline has to be condensed, yet powerful enough to make your heart flutter. Second, the entire film is about people acting in an unpredictable manner during the holidays because, as you know, love actually is all around.
So if scrawling out a declaration of love over a series of cue cards seems like a bit much, especially for a one-way love, well, it’s supposed to be. Yes, Lincoln’s character Mark comes off extremely odd (not to mention disloyal to his best friend), and you’re never told why he’s so in love with Keira Knightley’s Juliet, but you accept his Grand Gesture anyway, because those words on those cue cards set to that Christmas music is undeniably moving. It’s a wordless love scene that says more than those cue cards ever could, and even sprinkles in a little humor to make your heart hurt just a little more. (There’s a reason why it’s the scene Saturday Night Live recently chose to parody.) Look, the way I read it during my very first viewing was that it really was “enough now” by the end, that Mark got his feelings off his chest, Juliet understands why he had been so aloof, and everyone comes out of it unscathed. Judging by the final scene at the airport, everyone’s getting along just fine — and if Mark had been disloyal to his best friend by confessing his feelings, he was only more loyal, actually, because he never pursued anything. It was more of a… self-preservation thing, you see. Because after all, there’s nothing worse than the total agony of being in love.
Plus, Lincoln and Knightley sell the hell out of it: She laughs at the right times, he looks at her with puppy eyes, and even though this love story is all kinds of messy, it’s a better idea to just let it do its thing instead of slicing it apart. Mark is love-struck and lovelorn and lovesick and — you get the point because Love Actually is just about people going to great lengths for and because of love. Besides, the scene is a memorable one in a thoroughly crowded film. Isn’t that enough to cut the character at its center some slack?
Mark is a stalker creep — Natalie Abrams
Listen, I get that Mark’s feelings could not be contained, but that is your best friend! At some point, you just have to take one for the team and move on. Does Mark not care at all that by actually confessing his feelings for Juliet, she could easily turn around and tell Peter, therefore causing an epic falling out that will ruin the lives of three people? Nope. Worse, does it not register that Juliet could actually leave Peter for Mark, again leading to the aforementioned dumpster fire that was once their friendship? Of course not!
Instead, Mark toyed with fate throughout the movie, walking the line of anyone discovering the truth at any point. First: by interrupting Peter and Juliet’s wedding with a grand gesture of cramming the crowd not with their loved ones, but with members of a band that would legitimately play a love song from Mark to Juliet — it’s cute no one ever pointed that out. Moving on. Second: He basically made a video of only Juliet’s face on her wedding day so he could imagine himself standing next to her (or worse, assuming he’s hard-up on sexual fantasies).
But that’s not all: He then disrupts their quiet Christmas Eve to actually profess his love for Juliet with cute cue cards that look adorable on the surface, but are anything but when you put this situation under a microscope and not stuffed between other sweet moments of love. Here’s why: You may think Mark did this so he could finally admit the truth and ultimately move on, but you better believe he probably had the tiniest bit of hope that Juliet might actually say, “Oh, I just married Peter, but you know who I really want? You!”
Let’s not forget that Mark treated Juliet like dirt throughout her entire relationship with Peter simply to hide his true feelings for her. Why Juliet would kiss him after that is beyond me, but that kiss was definitely a betrayal of trust that Mark surely did not confess to Peter — making it a long held lie between Mark and Juliet that probably makes him love her even more. So, no, it wasn’t “enough now” that night. It likely only served to prove, in Mark’s mind, that there still could be something there, so he probably never stopped loving her and was always an awful friend to Peter from then on out.
Now it’s your turn, Love Actually fans: Do you think Mark is a lovestruck sap or a stalker creep? Vote in our poll and weigh in below: