Not all drama coming out of Denmark at the moment features moody lighting, troubled police detectives and must-have jumpers.
Love Is All You Need dips a Danish toe into romantic comedy, steeping itself in the sunstruck colours and emollient rhythms of la bella Italia. What's more, it stars Pierce Brosnan as bait for those filmgoers who loved his older-guy moves in Mamma Mia! And the good news for everyone is that he doesn't sing.
He plays morose widower Philip, so committed to his fruit-and-veg business that he says things like "Radishes are the top priority" without expecting to be laughed at. En route to his son's wedding in Italy, his car is accidentally pranged at the airport by a distressed driver. This would be Ida (Trine Dyrholm), a Copenhagen hairdresser still recovering from chemo (her wig poignantly slips post-prang) and the revelation of her husband's infidelity.
Philip is furious but finds himself obliged to companion Ida on the plane once it's established that she's the mother of the girl his son's about to marry. And so we strap ourselves in for a trip to the Amalfi Coast, where Philip has a hilltop house, handsome, romantic yet neglected since his bereavement. Could it possibly be symbolic of something?
There are two surprising aspects to Love Is All You Need. The first is its reluctance to deviate from genre. The characters all come from stock, starting with the bride and groom who are having panicky second thoughts about the forthcoming nuptials. Then there's the brassy sister-in-law (Paprika Steen), who's always fancied Philip and now sees her chance to nail him. And how about Ida's oafish husband (Kim Bodnia), who brings along that blonde bimbette he has been diddling?
The shenanigans that ensue will not tax your powers of prediction. The second, odder surprise is that it's directed by Susanne Bier, whose previous form is built on angsty familial dramas such as Brothers, After the Wedding and In a Better World, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2011. Set against this CV, the idea of people wandering through lemon groves and skinny-dipping in the bay looks positively frivolous.
True, these two families are enduring some turbulence, but it's all heavily signposted. If you can't work out what's causing the bridegroom his dark night of the soul, then you've probably been asleep. What keeps us on its side is the understated playing of the two leads. Trine Dyrholm, who first came to notice in a very different Danish celebration movie, Festen (1998), has startling indigo eyes that just occasionally brim from the pressure of home and health scares. Yet she has a gentleness of expression that's very disarming.
Brosnan is also good as the working stiff who has never learned to relax, and inches towards sympathy with his weary good manners. And then almost loses it when he savagely denounces one of the guests. It's another instance of the screenplay (by Anders Thomas Jensen) being over-emphatic and not trusting the audience to get it. That goes for the repeated theme song. If you're a bit sick of Dean Martin's "That's Amore", you will hate it by the end of this.
Love Is All You Need plays it safe, right down to the change of title – in Denmark it was called "The Bald Hairdresser" (not great either) – but as a draught of cinematic Ovaltine it goes down quite agreeably.
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