Love Is All You Need
In cinemas now
There are two types of love: the good kind, such as the intimate bond shared between two soul mates; and the bad kind that is frequently practiced by men with ponytails, and which requires several large beach towels, some weirdo lighting and various unlabelled lotions.
It’s the incomparable delights offered up by the former that Love Is All You Need, a Danish rom-com directed by Susanne Bier and starring Pierce Brosnan, aspires to capture. Yet ultimately, despite the director’s best intentions, the film left me feeling oddly unsettled, as if I had just accidentally witnessed five perspiring adults engaging very much in the bad kind of love.
Brosnan plays Philip, a widowed fruit and vegetable tycoon whose son is just days away from getting married at his father’s villa in Sorrento. The sort of man who puts his work ahead of his love life, Philip is still emotionally sore from the death of his late wife, and as a consequence, has now conceded to the fact that he’ll never find love again.
As he prepares to fly out for the wedding, we meet the mother of the bride, Ida (Trine Dyrholm), a breast cancer survivor who has just completed a course of chemotherapy. Despite of Ida’s illness, her disposition is far more positive that Philip’s, even when she discovers that her portly husband, Leif (Kim Bodnia), has been cheating on her
with a young woman.
With dialogue that is spoken in equal parts English and Danish (Brosnan speaks almost entirely in English, even when the person he’s speaking to replies in Danish), it seems likely that much has been lost in translation. The characters behave unlike humans, reacting absurdly to the predicaments that they find themselves in, and therefore leaving little room for subtlety.
For instance, Leif, is a comic lowlife who seems incapable of empathising with his poor wife. In reality, even a sociopath would exhibit at least an understanding of what it means to be empathetic. Yet Leif seems utterly incapable of grasping the concept, emoting like a pantomime villain would, and making it known for certain that he’s the film’s token scumbag.
Ida’s reaction to her husband’s adultery is equally puzzling, although perhaps more understandable given the emotional impact that her recent illness has had on her. She’s instantly willing to forgive and forget Leif’s foul play, but having bagged himself an attractive young blonde, Leif has plans to attend the wedding with his mistress instead.
When our main characters arrive in Sorrento, the film descends into something of a soap opera. It soon becomes obvious that, as the wedding approaches, the bride and groom are beginning to show signs of having cold feet. Meanwhile, Sorrento’s rustic beauty provides the perfect setting for a chalk and cheese relationship to develop between Ida and Philip.
It’s surprisingly endearing to watch their romance unfold, although witnessing the other characters interact soon becomes tiresome. Leif and his fancy woman at least have some comic potential, but we’re given very little reason to care about the bride and groom, whose entire saga can be predicted within the first fifteen minutes of the film.
This is somewhat true of Ida and Philip’s relationship, too, but Brosnan and Dyrholm have enough on-screen chemistry to make their characters’ stilted flirting work. This as well as the film’s idyllic setting aside, very little about Love Is All You Need is very warm or charming, and considering its title, it does little to sell the notion that love is all one needs.
On the contrary, it makes love look as disposable and shallow as a frisby: Ida and Philip’s flirting is all well and good, but nothing about their pairing suggests that they’ll be at all sustainable as a couple.
It is worth noting, however, that given that the film shares such unavoidable similarities with Mama Mia (Brosnan, the coming together of two families for a wedding) it does at least spare us the ordeal of having to hear Brosnan sing, sounding as he does like a man attempting to expel his own bowels through his mouth.