Directed by: Susanne Bier.
Written by: Anders Thomas Jensen and Susanne Bier.
Starring: Trine Dyrholm (Ida), Pierce Brosnan (Philip), Kim Bodnia (Leif), Paprika Steen (Benedikte), Sebastian Jessen (Patrick), Molly Blixt Egelind (Astrid), Christiane Schaumburg-Müller (Thilde), Micky Skeel Hansen (Kenneth), Bodil Jørgensen (Lizzie), Line Kruse (Bitten).
I understand why Susanne Bier wanted to a make a lighter film like Love is All You Need. Although her reputation is mainly built on her last four films, all of which are heavy dramas – Brothers (2004), After the Wedding (2006), Things We Lost in the Fire (2007) and her Oscar winning In a Better World (2010) – she made a few comedies before that. And those last four films are very, very heavy. When she’s at her best – like in Brothers, Wedding and Fire – her films are hard hitting, emotional gut checks, but when she’s at her worst – strangely the film that won her the Foreign Language Film Oscar, In a Better World, it’s almost comical how she piles up misery upon misery until you simply suffocate from it. So sure, Bier has earned the right to make a comedy – but did it have to be one so littered with clichés like Love is All You Need?
The film stars Trine Dyrholm, in a very good performance actually, as Ida – a Danish hairdresser who has just been informed that she has beaten cancer – although at the moment she is completely bald and has to wear a wig. She comes home to share the good news with her husband Leif (Kim Bodnia) – and wouldn’t you know it, she walks in on him having an affair with a much younger colleague. She is devastated, but has to pick herself up and head to Italy, where her daughter Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) is getting married. At the airport, she literally runs into Philip (Pierce Brosnan), who has already been established as a workaholic produce seller – who turns out to be her daughter’s future father-in-law. Philip is bitter and lonely – still not over the loss of his wife years before. If you cannot see what is going to happen between these two, than you have obviously never seen a romantic comedy before. These two characters drive each other crazy at first and then – well, you know, don’t you?
Love is All You Need is at least pretty to look at – most of the movie takes place at on a large estate in the Italian countryside – and is appropriately filmed in lovingly, sundrenched style. Like Ridley Scott’s similarly beautiful, but completely empty, A Good Year, this is a film that makes you fall in love with the location much more than any of the characters. So sit back and enjoy the sights – because there isn’t much else here.
I will say I found it strange that even in a romantic comedy like this, Bier adds in some rather heavy material – horrible mothers, bulimic daughters, sexual identity issues, etc. all come up during the running time of this film, but they are barely dealt with – just tossed off and the forgotten about.
It must be said that Dyrholm’s performance as Ida is actually quite good. I could never believe Brosnan’s performance – he’s far too one note in the film, and his demeanor never really changes whether he’s the stick in the mud or apparently the man in love. He’s sleepwalking through the film. And the supporting cast isn’t really given anything to play – the worst example may just be Benedikte (Paprika Steen) as Philip’s sister-in-law who makes a jaw droppingly harsh transition from delusional to downright cruel that makes no sense whatsoever. But through it all, Dyrholm does her best to keep the movie on an even keel – she doesn’t really succeed, but the fact that she comes close at times needs to be commended.
Perhaps I’m just too cynical for movies like this. I admit it – I’ve pretty much had my fill of romantic comedies – especially of this “wish fulfillment” variety on display in Love is All You Need. I’m much more forgiving of action or horror films that fully embrace the clichés of their genre than I am of romantic comedies. So, I guess that if you like the genre perhaps you’ll find something or worth in Love is All You Need. However, if you want something different – something intelligent or funny or heartfelt – than Love is All You Need fails.