Starring: Trine Dyrholm, Pierce Brosnan, Molly Blixt Egelind
Directed by: Susanne Bier (“In a Better World”)
Written by: Anders Thomas Jensen (“In a Better World”)
Known mostly for hard-hitting dramas like her Oscar-winning 2011 film “In a Better World” and the underappreciated 2007 tearjerker “Things We Lost in the Fire,” Danish director Susanne Bier gives her take on what a romantic comedy should be in the sweet but often emotionally unfulfilling “Love is All You Need.” While her foray into the genre can be considered a mixed bag, Bier is able to pull some convincing performances from her lead actors, Pierce Brosnan (“The Ghost Writer”) and Trine Dyrholm (“A Royal Affair”), to make up for the cliché and predictable moments in Anders Thomas Jensen’s script.
In “Love,” which is in both English and Danish, Dyrholm plays Ida, an afflicted hairdresser who finds out her husband is cheating on her during her visits to the doctor for cancer treatment. As her marriage falls apart, another is about to get underway. Her daughter Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) is getting married in Italy to Patrick (Sebastian Jessen), a man she has only recently met. Also scheduled to attend their wedding is Patrick’s workaholic father Philip (Brosnan) who has given the happy couple permission to use the family’s rustic villa for the ceremony.
When Ida and Philip coincidentally meet before they even get on the plane to Italy, it’s fairly easy to see where Jensen is going. In a sort of “Meet the Fockers”-type setup, things are bound to get messy and awkward as the two families collide in an all-too-familiar way. Fortunately, Bier doesn’t stoop to the level of something like “Madea’s Big Happy Family” when gathering the parties together. It’s not that kind of comedy. But there are scenes in “Love” that feel just as sitcom-friendly as Tyler Perry can deliver. Bier’s ability to divert most of these scenarios even when Jensen’s screenplay calls for them is noteworthy. For example, when Astrid’s father shows up to the villa with his new and much younger girlfriend in tow, things could have easily become sillier than necessary. Bier, however, proves even though she is new to the genre, she can keep most of her characters grounded and believable.
Brosnan and Dyrholm are perfectly fine on their own, but when brought together, the lighthearted romance brewing between them isn’t as emotionally satisfying as it should be. There is an underlying connection both have with one another (Philip has lost his wife; Ida has lost her marriage and health), but spending quiet time in each other’s company doesn’t do much to build on their relationship nor does it make for interesting conflict.
Love may be all one needs when life doesn’t go exactly as planned and someone is left to start all over again, but Bier, at this point in her career, isn’t the one that should be trying to inject the story with the kind of subtle comedy the film needs to be more than a blip on the foreign rom-com radar. It’s a passable attempt, but even a slightly above-average date with someone isn’t always a memorable one.