Susanne Bier’s previous feature, the Academy Award-winning In A Better World, was a largely serious affair that grappled with lofty themes of injustice, violence and retribution, so it’s not at all surprising that she would want to follow it up with something a little more light-hearted. In Love Is All You Need she’s delivered something fun, if not entirely frothy and frivolous, despite the film’s obvious romantic comedy trappings.
The set-up sounds grim, but it’s fair to say that it doesn’t play out quite are depressingly as it sounds. Danish hairdresser Ida (Trine Dyrholm) is recuperating from a bout of chemotherapy and a mastectomy to treat her breast cancer, and arrives home from hospital one day to find her husband boinking a ditzy young woman from his accounts department. Devastated, she heads off alone to her daughter’s wedding in Italy, and when her husband arrives a day later he has Tilde from Accounts in tow, whom he’s now calling his fiancé. Now that’s a pretty brutal opening act to put your protagonist through, but Bier constructs it all with a blackly comic tone that lessens the blow, and Dyrholm’s well-judged performance makes Ida seem less of a downtrodden victim.
But as good as she is, she’s still overshadowed by her co-star who’s found a role here that fits him like a glove. The last time Pierce Brosnan was jetting off to an exotic European wedding steeped in Scandinavian influence he didn’t fare so well, but this time luckily he gets away with just a spot of dancing – and what hypnotic dancing it is too – in lieu of straining out an Abba tune. His Philip is the father of the groom; an English widower who’s got a pretty unhealthy work-life balance – ironic, given that he runs a fruit and veg business. “Radishes are top priority, forget about everything else,” he announces to his co-workers, and it’s clear that’s exactly what he’s done at the expense of forging personal relationships. He’s also gloriously the kind of Brosnan character who’s not averse to the occasional Taffin-esque line delivery.
When Ida first meets Philip she’s less than impressed. She thinks he’s “so awful and stupid and not nice,” which she tells him to his face, but it doesn’t take long for the chemistry between the two to become obvious. They might have even realised it themselves a little sooner if they’d had the chance to listen to The Beatles, but that’s one song that must have proved too pricey for this soundtrack (instead we get countless renditions of ‘That’s Amore’). Bier handles the relationship between the two superbly, almost always resisting the temptation to tread into schmaltzy territory, and even if the film wears its intentions on its sleeve it’s immensely enjoyable watching the relationship begin to sparkle.
Less successful is Bier’s attempt to construct a compelling B-narrative around the bland younger couple, Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) and Patrick (Sebastien Jessen), which is clumsily structured and incredibly hard to engage with when there’s much more entertaining stuff going on elsewhere. The rest of the supporting players, meanwhile, are largely caricatures, albeit sometimes extremely successful caricatures – as is the case with Paprika Steen’s Benedikte who shares the film’s funniest scenes with Brosnan – but they also sometimes distract from the earnest central relationship. For that’s where the film’s real strengths lie; watching a pair of characters discovering that (all together now!)…