Collaborating for the fifth time with writer Anders Thomas Jensen – following Open Hearts (2002), Brothers (2004), After the Wedding (2007) and the Academy Award winning In a Better World (2010), Danish director Susanne Bier returns to cinematic consciousness with Love Is All You Need (2012), perhaps her most broadly mainstream film yet. Set both in her native Denmark and the sun-kissed shores of the southern coast of Italy, Bier’s latest is a frothy mixture of romantic comedy and familial unrest as she surveys the looming nuptials of a young couple whose respective parents are reaching something of a crossroads in their vastly dissimilar lives.
The remarkable Trine Dyrholm plays Ida, a Danish hairdresser who, whilst recuperating from chemotherapy and waiting for the results of her final oncological tests, discovers her slobbish husband Leife (Kim Bodnia) is cheating on her with a younger woman. Meanwhile Philip (played by Pierce Brosnan), an Englishman living in Denmark, is a lonely, middle-aged widower and estranged single father whose contentment in a life of moneyed solitude has rendered him consistently uninterested in forming lasting relationships.
Events conspire to entwine these two increasingly lost souls as they embark on their journey for Italy to attend the wedding of Ida’s daughter Astrid and Philip’s son Patrick, young lovers whose path to matrimony has a few obstacles in store.
Marking a notable change in tone in comparison to her previous hard-hitting dramas, Bier’s Love Is All You Need is a grounded but somewhat slight and uninspired perusal through several romantic comedy clichés, suffering from a narrative that owes a considerable debt to films such as Mamma Mia! (2008) and Laws of Attraction (2004), both of which also star Brosnan. In a rather sloppy appropriation of the genre, Jensen’s screenplay spends too much time establishing the characters and their respective settings that he forgets to actually imbue them with any particularly memorable flavours, entrenched as they are in well-worn tropes and characteristics. The relationships shared between the various lovers, friends and family feel shallow and underdeveloped, making early sequences – and many pivotal later ones – appear weightless and underdone, giving the illusion of believability despite a distinct lack of properly drawn histories and emotions. This is notable through Brosnan’s character, whose alienated relationship with his progressively confounded son isn’t given the time to breath or develop.
Sumptuously captured by cinematographer Morten Søborg, the film moves along at a brisk pace and slowly becomes more engrossing once it decides that the budding relationship shared between Dyrholm and Brosnan is its most significant overarching plot, but the beautiful, sun-dappled scenery barely masks a threadbare story that wears its predictabilities on its sleeves. If warmth is all you need for a comfortable romantic comedy, then Love Is All You Need provides the requisite fodder, just don’t expect anything particularly affecting from a filmmaker trying to meet Dogme-inflected panache with a more conventional model.