The breakdown and formation of relationships is an important theme in films, particularly in romantic and situational comedies. These are not necessarily romantic relationships, although most films do tell a love story of sorts; the relationships considered in the film may be romantic and may be platonic or familial. Regardless of the type of relationship considered in the film, there are a number of different conflicts that can be explored. One of the main forms of conflict in films is the potential for breakdown in communication. When there is a breakdown of communication, people become hurt and angry as a result of something the other individual said (or did not say) and this causes a rift. Over time, the rift between these individuals may become so great that it tears the relationship apart. In the film Mrs. Doubtfire, the breakdown in communication between a husband and wife leads to a divorce; in the film Love Actually, conversely, the development of communication heals the relationship between a father and stepson.
In Love Actually, the film actually centers around the formation and breakdown of relationships, so the theme of relationships is actually the driving force behind the plot. In one of the sub-stories, a man who has just lost his wife attempts to bond with his stepson. Scared that his stepson is taking his wife’s death way too hard, he worries each day as the boy retreats further and further into himself. However, as the film progresses, the man takes it upon himself to approach the boy. The initial breakdown in communication, caused by the wife’s death, causes friction between the two. When the father finally approaches the boy, they have the following conversation:
Daniel: So what's the problem, Sammy-o? Is it just Mum, or is it something else? Maybe school - are you being bullied? Or is it something worse? Can you give me any clues at all?
Sam: You really want to know? 
Sam: Okay. Well, the truth is actually I'm in love.
Daniel: Oh, well, okay right. Well, I mean, I'm a little relieved.
Daniel: Well, because I thought it would be something worse.
Sam: [incredulous] Worse than the total agony of being in love?
Daniel: Oh. No, you're right. Yeah, total agony. (Love Actually).
Daniel and Sam are interesting characters, because at the beginning of the film, they have a very difficult time communicating with each other at all. They break some of the traditional tropes for male communication; while their talk is ostensibly a means to an end (the focus is almost entirely on helping Sam talk to the girl in his class), the talk is really a means in and of itself to cure the relationship between the stepfather and his stepson. It is not instrumental in the same way male communication often is; it’s a relationship-building tool that leaves the relationship between the father and son much stronger than it was before.
At the beginning of the film, Sam demonstrates some stonewalling tactics against his stepfather, although it is not out of anger. Sam is hurt over his mother’s death, and confused about his first love; overwhelmed by this, he spends much of the beginning of the film stonewalling his stepfather. Once communication is restored, however, the stonewalling almost immediately ends.
In the film Mrs. Doubtfire, the crux of the plot is the main character’s divorce. The divorce is brought on by contempt and defensiveness on the part of the soon-to-be ex-spouses, both of whom seem for their part unwilling to communicate with each other. The children of the family are the ones that pay for their parents’ issues, as they find themselves unable to see their father.
Communication can be a powerful tool for a filmmaker. In both Mrs. Doubtfire and Love Actually, the filmmakers used communication and the breakdown of communication to tell an intriguing story. Ever since the beginnings of literature, the breakdown in communication has been a driving plot point for characters. Without this breakdown in communication, stories like Romeo and Juliet would be very different; a breakdown in communication can turn an everyday story into a comedy or a tragedy.
Love Actually. London: Richard Curtis, 2003. DVD.