DIR: Susanne Bier • WRI: Derek Anders Thomas Jensen • PRO: Sisse Graum Jørgensen, Meinolf Zurhorst • DOP: Morten Søborg • ED: Pernille Bech Christensen, Morten Egholm • DES: Peter Grant • CAST: Pierce Brosnan, Trine Dyrholm, Kim Bodnia, Paprika Steen
Love is All You Need is the unfortunate English title for the surprisingly delightful romantic comedy from Danish director Susanne Bier, whose In a Better World won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film.
The Danish title Den skaldede frisør translates as ‘The Bald Hairdresser’. Ida (Trine Dyrholm), a hairdresser, recovers from treatment for breast cancer. She returns home to find her husband Leif (Kim Bodnia) cheating on her with Tilde from accounting (Christiane Schaumburg-Müller). They separate days before they leave for Italy, where their daughter Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) will marry Patrick (Sebastian Jessen), son of businessman Philip (Pierce Brosnan). The young couple make use of Philip’s neglected villa in southern Italy.
Yes, it is a romantic comedy set before a wedding in the Mediterranean starring Pierce Brosnan; but it’s far more accomplished thanMamma Mia!. And yes, on paper, it seems like My Big Fat Europudding Wedding, with Danish, Swedish and Italian financing, a largely Danish cast and an Irish-born star, and dialogue in Danish, English and Italian. But don’t let any of this fool you: Susanne Bier’s assured but light-touch direction unifies these disparate elements into a wonderfully appealing film that mischievously disrupts rom-com standards.
The main plot is the budding romance between Ida and Philip, who bump into one another before they even get to Italy. Dyrholm’s endearing performance constantly charms. Her magnificent blue eyes register the disappointment with her husband, the fear and anxiety related to her ordeal with cancer, and her increasing happiness when she’s with Philip.
For more obvious comic effect, Brosnan could have overplayed Philip’s nastiness and rudeness to his employees that reveal his character’s bitterness as he grieves for his long-dead wife, but restraint makes Brosnan’s effective performance seem effortless.
The rest of the cast matches the excellence of the leads. Leif shows up at the villa with Tilde. Philip’s sister-in-law, divorcee Benedikte (Paprika Steen), sees an opportunity to declare her love for Philip, though she has to deal with her difficult daughter. Astrid doubts Patrick’s commitment, while Patrick attempts to please his father by doing what he thinks will make his father happy.
Bier skilfully develops each subplot, making the most of the potential in each, but never loses sight of the central romance. Her focus remains on the main characters, and she refrains from drenching the film in the lovely Italian sunlight in the way, say, Minghella did in The Talented Mr Ripley or Branagh in Much Ado about Nothing. This is not to detract from the film’s visual attractiveness. Johan Söderqvist contributes a gentle score, frequently reworking Dean Martin’s ‘That’s Amore’, enhancing the film’s playful romance.
Cancer treatment immediately makes Ida a sympathetic character, but Bier avoids melodrama and mawkishness. She deftly blends this material with the usual elements of a rom-com centred on a wedding. She plays cleverly with generic expectations, for example, introducing a gay element, and, in Astrid, having a female character strong enough to make the right decision.
A pleasant surprise, Love is All You Need consistently charms and amuses.
15A (see IFCO website for details)
Love is All You Need is released on 19th April 2013