Pierce Brosnan is an acquired taste. I like him. I can't put a finger on why, but I do. If he's not your cup of tea, I suspect you'll find little to enjoy here. And that's a shame, because Love Is All You Need
is an understated pleasure.
Susanne Bier's charming film sees Ida (Trine Dyrholm), fresh out of chemotherapy, catch her husband (Kim Bodnia from The Bridge and Bleeder) in a compromising position with the young "Thilde from accounts." Flying solo to her daughter's wedding in Italy, she literally bumps into lonely widower Philip (Pierce Brosnan), the father of her daughter's fiancé. As family and friends convene on Philip's beautiful villa, there's more than a passing resemblance to that quintessential piece on family dysfunction, Festen. Relationships are strained and re-evaluated as our damaged couple struggle to move forward with their lives. As one romance blossoms, so another falls asunder.
Essentially a romantic comedy with a familiar structure, the success of Love Is All Around lies in the deceptively sophisticated script by frequent Bier collaborator Thomas Anders Jensen. Sure, there's a raft of comic supporting characters you'd expect in any Richard Curtis production -- an oafish cheating husband, a horny but deluded relative, potty-mouthed children -- but the dynamic between Brosnan and Dyrholm's characters is handled with endearing verve and a lack of mawkishness that could otherwise blight it.
Dyrholm is undoubtedly the standout, playing Ida with grace and vulnerability, thankfully steering well clear of any notions of pity. Although more concerned with the emotional fallout of illness than the specific mechanics (we have Michael Haneke's Amour for that), Ida is still seen bald from chemotherapy, wearing a wig throughout, and in a conspicuously candid nude bathing scene we, and crucially Philip, glimpse the scars from her surgery. Bier deftly sidesteps any glib conclusions too, keeping a grip on the budding relationship without undermining the integrity of their plight.
It's not by any stretch flawless, of course. A misjudged scene where Philip recounts how his wife died comes across as awfully hackneyed, and the relationship between the young bride and groom is less enthralling, with an unconvincing denouement that seems trite. Cynics may balk at the familiarity of the milieu; wedding-set rom-com, anyone? Seen as a genre piece though, it offers a fresh and diverting take on events, with a struggling couple that for once you can actually root for. In a climate of rom-coms too often populated by unbearably conceited and vacuous drones, that's a hard thing to find.
And then, there's Brosnan. Anger-filled and uptight, his character mellows amidst the beautiful lemon groves. Bronzed of face, and dressed in smart-casual 'warm holiday' attire, I half expected him to break into song as some sort of Mamma Mia homage. But alas, no. Make of that what you will.
Love Is All You Need is in UK cinemas from 19th April through Arrow Films.
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