It was a time before Tinder… a time when ‘ghosting’ would see you calling a priest for support rather than your best friend… a time when ‘sexting’ just wouldn’t be possible with a Nokia 3310… yes, it’s fun to look back on the nineties and early noughties as a simpler time, but that’s not to say finding love wasn’t entirely without complications.
One of the best rom-coms of the era, Sliding Doors, turns 21 this year and the occasion is being marked with a special edition Blu-ray and DVD release on 13 May. To celebrate Sliding Doors coming of age, we’re taking a look back at the best films featuring Londoners looking for love and romance at the turn of the century.
FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (1994)
This romantic comedy mega-hit surprised the world as it grew into one of the most successful British films of all time, no one less so than Hugh Grant as he went from being on the verge of giving up acting altogether to global-superstar status overnight. The film follows Grant in the role of Charles, a sweet yet bumbling singleton with a fear of commitment. After meeting American guest Carrie (Kristin Scott-Thomas) at a mutual friend’s wedding, the pair spend the night together which leads to a courtship spanning many years and taking place predominantly at the titular social occasions – four weddings and one funeral. While the wedding antics see the ensemble cast travel from Somerset to Scotland, the romantic finale takes place in Islington, London. Four Weddings and a Funeral was the break-through success of screenwriter Richard Curtis, who would later become a household name and a rom-com force to be reckoned with!
SLIDING DOORS (1998)
What if one split second sent your life in two completely different directions? So goes the tagline for Sliding Doors, a film that follows London publicist Helen (played by Hollywood starlet Gwyneth Paltrow, adopting a British accent) on the day she loses her job and misses her train on the way home… only at that point the film rewinds and we see Helen again dash for the underground only this time to make it inside before the doors slam shut. Following two distinct timelines, we see Helen discover her cheating boyfriend, break-up with him and meet a new man (a charming John Hannah), while in the other, Helen remains oblivious to his infidelities. The film is packed with London locales, from Fat Boys Diner at Trinity Buoy Wharf to the Blue Anchor pub in Hammersmith but if you want to recreate that iconic underground moment, head to the Waterloo & City Line. Thanks to this classic, the term ‘Sliding Doors moment’ has become synonymous with a split second that changes your life. An iconic and unmissable rom-com.
NOTTING HILL (1999)
Screenwriter Richard Curtis followed up his breakthrough hit Four Weddings and a Funeral by returning to London and bringing back Hugh Grant to fall in love with yet another beautiful American… Julia Roberts. This time Grant plays Will, owner of a quaint bookstore on the Portobello Road, who falls for a famous Hollywood actress after a chance encounter. The course of love doesn’t run smooth as Will has to traverse the press and paparazzi as well as the reactions of his star struck friends to make the relationship work. Notting Hill, famous for its annual carnival, was chosen as the film’s setting as Curtis lived there and knew the colourful and culturally diverse area well. Pretty though it may be, shooting on the busy London streets proved a headache for the film crew who had to successfully weather paparazzi and the curious public to give us a timeless tale of London love. Snap!
BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY (2001)
Adapted from author Helen Fielding’s book of the same name, itself a modern update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones’s Diary finds Renée Zellweger as a 30-something Londoner looking for Mr. Right. Kicking bad habits and looking for love isn’t easy, especially with her attentions torn between charming rogue Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant, this time playing the bad guy) and uptight yet dependable Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). Sharon Maguire was behind the camera to direct the smash-hit film, and that’s not all; as a close friend of Fielding, Bridget’s mouthy mate Shazza is based on the director. For London settings, if you fancy recreating Bridget and Daniel’s first date just head over to the historic riverside street of Shad Thames for a stroll. Put it in the diary!
ABOUT A BOY (2002)
Based on Nick Hornby’s renowned novel, Chris and Paul Weitz’s About A Boy injects the rom-com with a hefty amount of human drama. The film catapulted Nicholas Hoult into the spotlight playing twelve-year-old Marcus, who lives with his chronically depressed mother (Toni Collette) and is having a rough time at school. When he meets grown-up layabout Will (Hugh Grant), who is living off the royalties from a Christmas song, they strike up an unlikely friendship. The film also stars Rachel Weisz (who teamed up with Hoult again recently for The Favourite) and was a critical and commercial success, raking in $130 million on a production budget of $30 million. For a heartwarming and funny coming-of-age comedy, with many scenes of classic quotable Grant (‘no man is an island’) look no further.
LOVE ACTUALLY (2003)
Christmas is all around in the beloved yuletide hit Love Actually. Eight very different relationships are entangled in Richard Curtis’ touching and hilarious rom-com, which stars a horde of British acting favourites including Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Kiera Knightley, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Chiwetel Ejiofor and of course… Hugh Grant! Iconic scenes include Grant as the Prime Minister doing a solo dance routine around Number 10 and Colin Firth awkwardly confessing his love in stilted Portugese. In one scene Kris Marshall’s character Colin accidentally insults the wedding food in front of the caterer. This was originally written as a scene for Four Weddings and a Funeral but was cut and resurrected in Love Actually. Standing the test of time, Curtis’ smash-hit is a mainstay on televisions around the world every Christmas, proving that it’s all about love… actually.
Icon Film Distribution presents Sliding Doors: 21st Anniversary Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray and DVD 13 May