Love Is All You Need
Danish-Italian (and a wee bit Irish) romance is beautifully realistic
Love Is All You Need
Directed by Susanne Bier
Cast: Trine Dyrholm, Pierce Brosnan
When we first meet Copenhagen hairdresser Ida, she’s having a bad day—a bad life, really. She’s wrapped up post-mastectomy chemotherapy and is nervously awaiting her final test results. She just caught her husband cheating on her with a much younger woman. And now the airline has lost her luggage. On the other hand, she’s on her way to sunny Italy to attend her daughter’s wedding, so maybe things are starting to look up. Directed by Oscar-winning Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier (Open Hearts, After the Wedding, Things We Lost in the Fire, In a Better World), Love Is All You Need is an irresistible, mature, confectionary-glazed dramedy about the life you build after your life falls apart.
Middle-aged but still quite attractive, it’s clear that our gal Ida (Danish actress Trine Dyrholm from The Celebration and Troubled Water) has lost her mojo, her happiness, her joie de vivre. The cancer treatment has taken a lot out of her, leaving her more spiritually drained than physically exhausted. Though she appears to be on the road to recovery, she can’t get over the fact that she’s a professional hairdresser without any hair. Still reeling from her husband’s betrayal, she ends up in Naples sans suitcase. Her daughter (Molly Blixt Egelind) is getting hitched to a nice, half-Danish boy named Patrick (Sebastian Jessen). It’s not long before our leading lady bumps into the father of the groom, handsome widower Philip (James Bond himself, Pierce Brosnan).
Philip is the workaholic head of an international fruit and vegetable company based back in Denmark. He’s bankrolling this lavish wedding at his fabulous, if long-neglected seaside villa on the coast of Italy. Though he’s ostensibly all business, Philip starts to find himself attracted to emotionally wounded Ida. Therein lies the heart of our tale—an optimistic, entirely adult love story willing to explore what lies underneath the usual romantic comedy clichés.
Love Is All You Need checks off a lot of the requisite boxes for your typical, indie rom-com—from the wedding-centric plot to the exotic locale to the cancer subplot. Although there are a number of familiar elements here, the film never becomes trite or contrived. Few viewers will be surprised where things end up, but most will be satisfied. And pleasantly so. Credit goes to Bier’s wonderful leading lady, her game leading man and to a screenplay (by longtime collaborator Anders Thomas Jensen) that treats everyone on screen like a well-rounded human being. Though Dyrholm and Brosnan’s life-battered characters are obviously designed to be attracted to one another, there are clear and complex reasons pushing them apart. Even supporting characters feel real and multifaceted under the surface. The wonderfully named Paprika Steen, for example, makes an impression as Philip’s loudmouthed sister-in-law, who’s clearly been angling for her shot at the brokenhearted businessman for decades.
The film leans a bit more toward drama than comedy. The drama isn’t exactly heavy-duty, but does manage moments of great poignancy. One memorable scene finds Ida climbing out of the sea, naked and bald—a moment that isn’t milked for pity or shock value or even sexuality. It just feels real and organic. The moments of humor are similarly natural. For being a film about late-blooming romance, the script is refreshingly free from Viagra jokes. Give this an (inevitable) American remake, and it will be sunk by unsubtle performances, broad comedy, forced antagonism between the leads and a “you go, girl!” ending straight out of How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Thankfully that’s a problem for another day. Gorgeous to look at, emotionally grown-up and warmhearted to a fault, Love Is All You Need is a hard invitation to resist.