11/28/2016 03:32 pm ET Updated Nov 27, 2017

Love Actually: Don't Fast Forward To The Happy Ending

One of the many characters in Love Actually is a widower named Daniel (Liam Neeson.) While delivering his wife Joanne's eulogy, he gives us a hint at her sense of humor:

"Jo and I had uh, a lot of time to prepare for this moment. Some of her, uh, requests - for instance, that I should bring Claudia Schiffer as my date to the funeral - I was confident she expected me to ignore."

In a scene shortly following the funeral, Daniel cries in front of his married friend Karen (Emma Thompson.) Karen responds be telling him:

"Get a grip, people hate sissies. No-one's ever gonna shag you if you cry all the time."

In the movie, that bit of dialogue is not meant to paint Karen as being a bad friend. Rather, this is how the movie actually sees the world: Only wimps have emotions, real men don't cry, and it's a widower's JOB to get laid.

And sure enough, by the end of the movie, the widower is successfully flirting with (and beginning a relationship with) Carol, a women who happens to look a lot like Claudia Schiffer (perhaps because she's being played by Claudia Schiffer.) The timeline between the widower burying his wife and hitting it off with a supermodel? Five weeks.

Five weeks. That's the timeline movies like Love Actually have for grief. After that, it's time to give the audience what they really want, namely the excitement of seeing a "boy meets girl" moment. Joanne, who is never even seen alive during the movie, was only written into existence to set up a surprise romance. It's suggested that Joanne suffered through a long illness, but her real cause of death was narrative efficiency.

There is a shocking amount of pressure placed on real-life widows and widowers to "get back out there." People will actually start talking to the bereaved about dating as early as the funeral. Love Actually, The Holiday, and other movies that use an off-screen dead spouse to help set up an eventual "meet cute" romantic-comedy moment are only contributing to the problem.

People's lives do not follow narrative arcs. When you or somebody you know faces a personal loss, respect that loss for what it is. Let it be a self-contained terrible moment in time, not a mere set up for something wonderful that you want to believe is just around the corner. Don't try to fast forward to the happy ending.