They have to get to the airport IMMEDIATELY after the school’s Christmas Eve concert. They must spend Christmas Eve in the air! It is a phenomenal shot which lasts all of three seconds: Joanna (Olivia Rose Olson) ducks into the car. We only see the burgundy knit beanie-capped back of her head and purple coat as she enters the vehicle and pulls the door closed without so much as a second glance back at the school where she has spent a full semester. Most of that time, presumably, Joanna was heavily invested in preparations for the big Christmas Eve concert that has wrapped up maybe half an hour ago (about three minutes in the movie’s time).
Joanna is fascinating because — as is the case for most of the gargantuan Love, Actually cast’s short roles — we know almost nothing about her. We know, thanks to Weird Little UK Boy Sam’s (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) crush on her, that she is American, a detail pertinent only because 1) we hear her sing in ‘American English’ at the concert and 2) she and her family have to get back to the states for Christmas. That is, they leave immediately from the concert for the airport, and they must be cutting it awfully close, for once in the airport, they don’t spend any time waiting around in lines or sitting at the gate waiting to board. In fact, they seem to be the very last passengers boarding the plane! The waiting room is completely empty by the time Sam catches up to Joanna and her family. Not only can I never conceive of cutting such a long and important flight so close, but they’re doing so on CHRISTMAS EVE. The concert seems to happen in the evening, and sure enough a screen in the airport informs us that the Virgin Airlines flight VS003 (last call, by the way) departs at 21:45 for JFK. Assuming New York City to be their final destination, that would mean they will be traveling ‘back in time’ by 5 hours thanks to the time difference. But the flight itself lasts about 8hrs. So they will land in New York at 12:45am Christmas morning in New York, and then will probably take another hour to get home (oh don’t forget an extra 15 minutes for baggage claim, although I suppose it’s not so far fetched to imagine they don’t have any checked luggage for a one month trip home), terribly jet lagged. That puts them home at about 2:00AM. All this just to be in New York for Christmas morning.
What kind of Christmas morning will it be for them, I wonder? Will they be ready to face the day and open presents as usual? Maybe they’re just the type of people who actually manage to get decent sleep on the plane. Or maybe they intend to nap after opening presents. It is truly insane to consider how far humanity has come: barreling through the sky at 560 miles per hour in a tin can, at an altitude of 40,000 feet, for eight straight hours to cross over 3000 miles to be in a different country for a pagan holiday.