After directing a series of intense dramas, including the Oscar-winning In a Better World, Susanne Bier turns her lens on a romantic comedy. While the setting (an Italian villa!), situation (a family wedding!) and soundtrack (“That’s Amore”!) of the blandly titled Love Is All You Need are clichéd staples of the genre, the Danish helmer and her frequent writing partner Anders Thomas Jensen bring both gravity and a light touch to an otherwise familiar narrative.
Pierce Brosnan is the accessible entry point for American audiences as Philip, an English businessman living in Denmark. He’s cold and distant, especially with his emotionally needy son. Patrick (Sebastian Jessen) hopes his pending nuptials at the Italian villa where the family spent their summers before his mother died will bring him closer to Dad, but Philip maintains his professional reserve. Still, there’s a subtle undercurrent of poignancy and moments of true tenderness between father and son as the celebration predictably unravels.
On his way to Italy, Philip meets-cute Ida (Trine Dyrholm), a modest hairdresser who, ironically, has lost all her hair to chemo. Her doctor has cleared her of cancer as the film begins, but her breasts remain scarred, and, worse, she discovers that her oaf of a husband, Leif (Kim Bodnia), has been screwing his hot young coworker, Tilde (Christiane Schaumburg-Müller), throughout Ida’s treatment. She’s determined not to let the news ruin her daughter Astrid’s (Molly Blixt Egelind) wedding, but it’s hard to maintain a sunny disposition when your soon-to-be ex arrives with his mistress, who introduces herself as his fiancée.
Ida’s illness and humiliation aren’t the only serious issues hanging over the wedding. It turns out Philip is still grieving his wife’s death, and Astrid is having doubts that Patrick really wants to marry her. Refreshingly, not everyone lives happily ever after here.
The characters are sometimes frustrating—Philip doesn’t have to be quite so cruel to his opportunistic sister-in-law, Benedikte (Paprika Steen), a love-to-hate villainess, and Ida loses esteem when she takes Leif back. But overall Love is all you need for a feel-good viewing experience that’s enjoyable without feeling superficial.
Director: Susanne Bier
Writer: Anders Thomas Jensen
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Trine Dyrholm, Molly Blixt Egelind, Sebastian Jessen, Paprika Steen, Kim Bodnia, Christiane Schaumburg-Müller, Micky Skeel Hansen
Release Date: May 3, 2013