LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED. Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Trine Dyrholm, Paprika Steen, Molly Blixt Egelind, Sebastian Jessen, and Kim Bodnia. Directed by Susanne Bier. Rated M (Sex scene, nudity and coarse language). 111 min.
This Danish romantic comedy tells the story of two very different families brought together in Italy for a wedding.
Ida (Trine Dyrholm) arrives home from her final chemotherapy treatment for cancer, to find her husband, Lief ((Kim Bodnia), “in flagrante” with a co-worker from his firm’s accounts section. Distraught and heartbroken, she leaves immediately for Sorrento to attend the wedding of her daughter, Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) to Patrick (Sebastian Jessen). The wedding couple and their guests converge on a run-down, but still glorious Italian villa, where the happy couple will be married.
The groom-to-be’s father, Philip (Pierce Brosnan), who owns the villa, has always had a tense relationship with his son, Patrick; his in-laws are not entirely to his liking; and he is discontented with life generally. Widowed, he is crotchety, ill-tempered and sad, and blames everyone else for the loss of his beloved wife years before. When Lief turns up at the wedding with his hair-brained girl friend, Ida proceeds to give him a piece of her mind, and Philip notes her demonstrative outburst with interest. Things then start going wrong with the wedding couple, and Ida and Philip are forced together in the ensuing debacle. In doing so, romance blossoms between them.
There is a “Mamma Mia” element to this film, with no singing, but the result is a gentle movie that has moments of genuine sparkle. Trine Dyrholm is delightful as Ida, and Pierce Brosnan is characteristically suave and stylish. The comedy is enhanced by a very unlikeable sister-in-law, Benedikte (Paprika Steen), who has a snarly daughter she describes publicly to guests at the wedding as obese. Benedikte wants everyone, except herself, to feel as insecure as possible.
The wedding couple are not as well suited to each other as is generally assumed. In particular, Patrick has an obvious lack of enthusiasm for sex, which presents a looming problem for a supposedly heterosexual couple about to be married. The scripting of the film is sharp, though the one-liners give way to situational comedy that occasionally gets out of hand.
The film as a whole is a light piece with particularly good chemistry between the two main leads, and it is a good-hearted movie that treats the human condition perceptively and sensitively. No stranger to portraying human drama, Susanne Bier has all her characters exposing their vulnerabilities, and the drama draws a lot of its force from human foibles that are easy to recognise. A perfectly common fault, shared by most of the characters in the movie, is that they demonstrate the universal tendency to pretend everything is all right, when those around us know clearly it is not.
Patrick’s conflicts get a lot of play. He is a person who is unsure of his male identity, and this is exploited by Bier to examine the role relationships between men and women. The film demonstrates, however, that what really matters the most in life are the warmth, affection and loving interactions that need to exist among us all.
The film is not a particularly weighty one, but it is enjoyable, and it provides a fine exposure to some especially scenic parts of Italy. The plot-line of the film has good, unexpected twists; there is dramatic dialogue to keep one reliably involved; and the film has interesting comic moments. Excellent camera work, showing Sorrento and the Amalfi coastline at their best, completes an entertaining package.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Out 13th. December, 2012.