Danish director Susanne Bier (In A Better World, winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 2010 Academy Awards, and After the Wedding) teams up again with her regular screenwriting collaborator, Anders Thomas Jensen, for Love Is All You Need, a sunny and syrupy Italian-set romantic drama. Ida (Trine Dyrholm, In A Better World), a hairdresser living in Copenhagen, has just completed a treatment of chemotherapy for diagnosed breast cancer. In the days prior to her flight to Sorrento for the wedding of her daughter Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) to Patrick (Sebastian Jessen), Ida learns that her tactless husband Lief (Kim Bodnia) is having an affair with a young accountant from his office – and soon intends to leave Ida and remarry – which results in further humiliation.
While at the airport she embarrassingly backs into a terse, uptight and self-centered businessman (Pierce Brosnan, The Ghost Writer), who is understandably less than impressed. Coincidentally, this is Patrick’s widowed father Phillip, also on his way to Italy. What follows is a kitchen-sink drama that tracks awkward revelations about both dysfunctional families, suffering from an array of personal conflicts and repressed emotions. But, amidst it all, both Ida and Phillip find an unexpected second chance at love.
Wildly inconsistent, Love Is All You Need is only intermittently amusing and occasionally moving, struggling to evoke much of an emotional response at all. It really could have been affecting if it weren’t so predictable and silly. Stretching close to two hours this noticeably overlong tale just didn’t hit a chord with me despite the strong work from a debonair and smooth-talking Brosnan and the commendably composed but weak-willed Dyrholm, whose character’s confidence and self-esteem have clearly been shattered by her illnesses.
The characters are all flawed, perhaps with the exception of Astrid, an innocent youngster who has naively rushed into a marriage following a whirlwind three-month courtship. Though she senses that something is amiss with Patrick’s affections, the audience is well aware of the reasons long before she is. Insensitivities like Lief bringing an undesired guest to the wedding, and Benedickte’s (Patrick’s aunt, played by Paprika Steen) unsubtle attempts to bed Phillip are ridiculous, but add to the turmoil unfolding at Phillip’s lavish villa. There are some developments that are hard to buy, and as lovely as Ida is, some of her decisions are painful to watch.
The music choices are often obtrusive (“That’s Amore” plays several times) but Bier and her cinematographer commendably highlight the picturesque features of the beautiful Amalfi Coast. The overstated colours are vibrant and the visuals possess warmth, resulting in a film that is pleasing to the eye. It is a pity that what transpires in the narrative is so predictable and short on the inspiration that made Bier’s more challenging melodramas the memorable experiences they are.
Though not a wholly successful comedy or drama, there is enough charm here to attract audiences looking for a pleasant romantic story. I wouldn’t go so far as call the film trite, because Bier manages to infuse this busy concoction with plenty of warmth and effectively develops a number of layered characters, but apart from the performances from Dyrholm and Brosnan it falls short of being memorable.
[rating=2] and a half
Andrew Buckle - follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22
Andy Buckle is a passionate Sydney-based film enthusiast and reviewer who has built a respected online voice at his personal blog, The Film Emporium. Andy will contribute reviews, features and be our resident film festival, and awards expert.