New film opens at Neon next weekend
Danish director Susanne Bier seems to be incrementally easing off the dramatic gas with each new release. She began attracting attention in the United States with a strong string of recent films (“After the Wedding,” “Things We Lost in the Fire” and “In a Better World”) that mine deep emotional wounds in her troubled characters. Even with “Love Is All You Need,” an impending wedding triggers the gathering of two fractured and fracturing families. But, deep within of each of these films is a desire to discover or define some element of the self that has, somehow, been left blank or obscured by life and divergent experiences.
Ida (Trine Dyrholm), the mother of the bride (Molly Blixt Egelind) and a very recent cancer survivor, arrives in Italy alone, having recently discovered that her husband has been carrying on an affair during her treatment, but she puts up a brave front for her daughter’s sake. The groom (Sebastian Jessen) seems far too eager to satisfy his repressed workaholic father (Pierce Brosnan), still in mourning and angry over the loss of his wife many years ago. All of which sets the stage for the wounded parents to meet cute and provide some much needed healing for one another.
The premise certainly sounds sitcom-ish and is filled with all the expected bits of misadventures and misdirection, but Bier’s touch is deft and surprisingly true to something that actually resembles real life.
For film enthusiasts, “Love Is All You Need” recalls, to a certain extent, Joel Schumacher’s 1989 movie, “Cousins,” with Ted Danson and Isabella Rossellini as cousins who meet at a wedding and take a liking to each other after their spouses fall into a delirious affair. “Cousins” is the U.S. remake of the 1975 Jean-Charles Tacchella film “Cousin, Cousine.” The French version plays a bit more high-minded and serious, despite being a comedy at heart, while Schumacher, in a bit of a groove at that point in his career, displayed a lighter, defter touch with the material. “Cousins” trusts us to go along for an amiable ride and fall in love with Danson and Rossellini’s characters as they discover each other.
With “Love,” Bier gets to present an original story, while also offering audiences – especially the subtitle-skeptical ones – a familiar point of reference. Brosnan may no longer be Bond, but he has gracefully aged and moved on with his career. He’s thankfully not singing here, as he did in “Mamma Mia,” and he even gets to play – a bit against type – a hard-driving businessman with nothing else on his mind other than work. Yet, it is painfully obvious that his heart is waiting to rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes.
And Dyrholm matches him easily, note for note, as a woman struggling to survive and looking for a reason to go on after discovering her husband’s infidelity. There are scenes with her, either highlighting the wig she wears as a result of chemotherapy or topless with her scars on full display, that stray into uncomfortable territory. Are we to laugh or avert our gaze at such sights? Dyrholm and Brosnan keep us in those moments and allow us to live in them as they are.
The comedy here is the stuff of life, where we sometimes aren’t sure if we should laugh or cry. It is not about beats and laugh tracks or being directed to feel a certain way. “Love” allows us to find ourselves, just as its characters search around in the dark for that missing or obscured piece of themselves with more than a little of that thing called love.
Reach DCP film critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com