Review: Love Is All You Need (2012)

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Cast: Trine Dyrholm, Pierce Brosnan, Paprika Steen
Director: Susanne Bier
Country: DenmarkDenmark | Sweden | Italy | France | Germany
Genre: Comedy | Romance
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Notes: Love Is All You Need opens in limited release tomorrow, May 3rd. If you’ve already seen the film we’d love to hear your thoughts on it, or if you’re looking forward to seeing it this weekend, please tell us in the comments section below or in our new Next Projection Forums.

“It’s actually been difficult for me, seeing you be so sick,” protests Leif when his wife Ida, newly declared in remission from breast cancer, finds him in their living room with “Tilde from accounting”. It’s a line typical of the jet-black comedy of celebrated scribe Anders Thomas Jensen, who makes his fifth collaboration with director Susanne Bier since her 2002 Dogme 95 breakthrough Open Hearts with Love Is All You Need. Following in the Oscar-winning footsteps of the duo’s last collaboration, 2010’s In a Better World, the new movie offers an antithesis of sorts to the pair’s postnuptial drama After the Wedding, embracing the sort of light comedy more frequently seen in Jensen’s own directorial outings as it follows Ida and Leif to the south of Italy for their daughter’s marriage to the son of a wealthy fruit merchant.

He, played by Pierce Brosnan with a shirt one button short of appropriate attire for a man his age, is that austere business sort with the underlying kindness you only ever seem to encounter in films of this type. There are certain similarities, alarmingly, to his Mamma Mia! role—they do not extend, thankfully, to the peculiar brand of mating call he terms singing…

love3A surprising change of pace for Bier and Jensen, whose collaboration has produced a steady stream of stark drama across the last decade, Love Is All You Need wholeheartedly embraces romantic comedy formula as the dissolution of Leif and Ida’s marriage gives way to an antagonistic relationship between her and her daughter’s would-be father-in-law. He, played by Pierce Brosnan with a shirt one button short of appropriate attire for a man his age, is that austere business sort with the underlying kindness you only ever seem to encounter in films of this type. There are certain similarities, alarmingly, to his Mamma Mia! role—they do not extend, thankfully, to the peculiar brand of mating call he terms singing—allayed though they are by the underlying darkness of Jensen’s script, which surfaces now and then to remind us of the real world lying just beyond these sun-kissed horizons.

Brosnan is on good form here, albeit strangely pitched to answer every Danish inquiry in English in one of those odd multilingual conversation conceits engineered to squeeze an Anglophonic actor into a foreign film role. Better still is Trine Dyrholm, whose Ida is at once an awkwardly hilarious creation and a deeply affecting heroine whose collapsing life is the source of many jokes, but never the butt of them. It’s in that way that the film most prominently succeeds, Jensen and Bier always ensuring that their comedy—no matter how silly—is rooted in the drama of real characters’ lives. The arc they trace is remarkably standard, bereft of surprise and even a little boring in its conventionality, but it’s the legitimacy of character and genuineness of emotion with which they populate it that allows it to transcend generic limitations to emerge something more than just a standard series of rom-com moments.

Brosnan is on good form here, albeit strangely pitched to answer every Danish inquiry in English in one of those odd multilingual conversation conceits engineered to squeeze an Anglophonic actor into a foreign film role. Better still is Trine Dyrholm, whose Ida is at once an awkwardly hilarious creation and a deeply affecting heroine whose collapsing life is the source of many jokes, but never the butt of them.

love4The stripped-back aesthetic with which Bier made her name on Open Hearts, subscribed of course to the strictness of Dogme principles, has long-since faded: Love is All You Need is just about as far removed from that visual style as a movie can be. Free from the darkness which has defined her career since its rise to attention, she here embraces bright saturation and tidy framing, bringing a glossy sheen to match the polished familiarity of this narrative. Less appealing though the story itself may be, it’s refreshing to see Bier given the chance to let loose with a wider palette: contributing a colourful optimism to the lemon groves through which Brosnan and Dyrholm together walk, her direction is infectious in its cheer, meeting even the more sombre moments of reflective meditation with the faint glimmer of the setting sun.

So distinct from their previous pairings, Love Is All You Need seems at times just Bier and Jensen enjoying themselves with some fun in the sun. And indeed why shouldn’t they: an Oscar apiece, astride the wave of contemporary Danish cinema, they’ve earned the opportunity to sit back and try something more relaxed together. Prominently and proudly subscribing to the machinations of its genre, it’s a film that wears its heart on its sleeve—quite literally, the title is the essence of its message—and allows its deeply human characters to find a happiness we could never dare begrudge them. It’s not Open Hearts, nor Brothers, nor After the Wedding, nor should it be: it’s its own little movie, happily viewing the world its own little way.

[notification type=”star”]67/100 ~ OKAY. Prominently and proudly subscribing to the machinations of its genre, Love Is All You Need is a film that wears its heart on its sleeve—quite literally, the title is the essence of its message—and allows its deeply human characters to find a happiness we could never dare begrudge them.[/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.