Thomas Brodie-Sangster | Love, Actually

Credit: Universal Pictures

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Digby Houghton

The burning hot sun beams into my lounge room as I wipe beads of sweat from my forehead. I turn the volume up high enough to hear the regal brass band accompany the love-ravished Sam (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) as he slides and hops through the airport security guards in order to chase his sweetheart, Joanna Anderson (Olivia Rose Olson) in the 2003 rom-com Love, Actually. Whilst my t-shirt sticks to my body drenched in sweat (I am ‘down under’ in Melbourne, Australia), I think of the ongoing imperial and cultural colonisation that the English bares down upon the Antipodes turning this early film into an incessantly re-watched movie here. Love, Actually is a Christmas movie and one which continues to feed Australians’ appetites during our long and warm seasonal evenings albeit in a topsy-turvy environment to those depicted in the movie. Bill Nighy belting “Christmas is All Around Us” has, on occasion, been heard at friends houses during kick-ons in the wee hours of the morning exemplifying the fandom which exists here.

Sam’s character in Love, Actually mourns the loss of his recently deceased mother as his step-father Daniel (Liam Neeson) supports him to overcome his grief, learning to play the drums for the upcoming Christmas pageant at school in order to impress his beloved Joanna. In a meta textual way. Sam plays the main character in his story like a tween prodigy, much the same way that Sangster capitalised on the role to catapult to fame only to amount to what would be a relatively lacklustre career (accentuated by his ongoing reprisal in the Maze Runner franchise and as Ferb Fletcher in Phineas and Ferb). 

Sangster was born in England in 1990, before dating apps existed and Love was more beholden to the notion of spontaneity, achieving success in the film and TV industry in the early 2000’s in TV movies before receiving a credited role as a young and tempestuous Adolf Hitler in the 2003 miniseries Hitler: The Rise of Evil. Something clicked that year as Love, Actually was released and he rose like Icarus to the skies, before plummeting down to earth. In a twist of fate Sangster can be found today dating fellow cast-aside child actor Talulah Riley (known for Poirot and St Trinian’s, and being Elon Musk’s ex-wife). Clearly Sangster’s fall from stardom was too much and he had to settle down with somebody who was his equal. 
Sangster’s storyline as Sam follows him madly tracking down and kissing Joanna, his tween crush, but the romantic storyline does not amount to much. To some extent, the muted success is almost an emulation of Sangster’s lacklustre acting career replete with roles as voice actors and kids movie characters including a recent role as Benny Watts in last year’s Netflix original series The Queen’s Gambit (unsurprisingly, he plays a young chess prodigy who rivals the protagonist before becoming her mentor). His recent spark of romance with Riley on the set of Danny Boyle’s new miniseries about the Sex Pistols (Pistols) shows that the an apple a day doesn’t stem history from repeating itself.