The four wedding and a funeral sequel received the customary twitter outrage treatment when it was screened for Comic Relief last night. Opposition seemed to be divided into those who thought the sketch was making light of LGBTQ+ relationships, and the BBC-is-too-PC crowd. But to me Richard Curtis seems to have a conjured a golden, if somewhat conservative, panacea of inclusivity.
A familiar group was back. Though older, greyer and portlier, we got to see a glimpse of the characters we loved in the halcyon days of 90’s rom-coms. Hugh Grant grinned his signature grin as he accompanied his daughter, played by Hollywood golden girl Lily James, up the aisle towards a besuited figure. When they turned, the groom was revealed to be another bride.
And the surprises didn’t stop there. Alicia Vikander played the dapper bride whose dramatic lipstick marked her as truly her mother’s (Fiona!) daughter. As they gave their vows in front of an amusingly befuddled Father Gerald, they told the story of how their parent’s friendship had brought them together. They looked into each other’s eyes and remembered their first furtive kiss on shared holidays and how that blossomed into love. It was so perfectly mundane and I am not ashamed to admit I cried.
The reception featured the swirling forces of awkwardness, envy and euphoria of seeing old acquaintances, that made the original film so great. And the bond of love between the two women was just another seam in the tangled web of family and friendship. For better or worse, LGBTQ+ relationships were perfectly integrated in this glistening world.
The 90’s really couldn’t feel more distant. It is easy to forget how precarious even Hugh Grant’s career had been when he faced allegations of homosexuality. Indeed, when the film was released, Thatcher’s Section 28 was still in the statute books, so the simple embrace of the two brides in the sketch would have been an act of ‘propaganda’.
Today, despite all the progress made, many still face the choice between family and partners. Some of course create a ‘found family’, and we must not forget the importance of hard, necessary and slow activist work. But the wonderful, slightly saccharine sketch was a vision is of what might be possible, and of the love that is truly at the root of it all anyway.