Film Review – Love Is All You Need

Love Is All You Need (M)

Directed by: Susanne Bier

Starring: Trine Dyrholm, Pierce Brosnan, Kim bodnia

Two and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Ageing female actors have often noted the lack of strong, meaty roles for them to sink their teeth into. Once they have hit their 40s and beyond, they are usually restricted to playing “the mother” or “the grandmother”, banished to the sidelines and the characters stripped of dimensions. Any decent roles are promptly snatched up by Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren or Frances McDormand, leaving little left for capable performers such as Michelle Pfeiffer, Sigourney Weaver and Susan Sarandon.

It is refreshing to have a romantic comedy – a genre usually dominated with pretty young things, poster boys and girl next door types –  powered by a female character in her 40s, struggling with real problems. None of this adolescent “will the most popular boy in school ever notice me?” rubbish. Not so refreshing is that this rare occurrence offers us one of the most backwards written roles that sets women’s liberation back a good 30 years. Perhaps writer Anders Thomas Jensen was aiming for “flawed” when developing struggling wife and mother Ida on the page, but on the screen she just comes off weak, barely able to stand on her own two feet and constantly at the mercy of men.

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When cancer fighter Ida (Trine Dyrholm) returns home to find her husband Leif (Kim Bodnia) having sex with an attractive employee half his age on their couch, she doesn’t yell, scream or throw things. Sure she is devastated, but she is composed. But when low life hubby starts to blame her sickness for his unhappiness, she still hardly reacts. Her only solution to this problem is for them to fly separately to their daughter Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) and her fiance Patrick’s (Sebastian Jessen) wedding in Italy.

Ida puts on a brave face and a wig of flowing blonde locks (the chemo therapy has made her bald) when she arrives at the gorgeous site for the wedding, a sea-side property owned by Patrick’s family as she watches her daughter prepare for the biggest day of her life as her own life crumbles. But sparks begin to fly between her and Patrick’s father, Philip (Pierce Brosnan), a brash, no-nonsense businessman who has been widowed for years but has never tried to find another love. Despite the icky set up (no-one seems to be aware of the implications of Ida and Patrick hooking up the same weekend their children are getting married), their courtship is sweet and is bolstered by the hijinks and dramas of the weekend. Philip’s inappropriate, attention seeking sister-in-law Benedikte (Paprika Steen) steals every moment she is in.

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Dyrholm is gorgeous, charming and bold and makes Ida sympathetic and there are some powerful moments – including the reveal of her bald head – not often found in such light weight entertainment, but it is hard to champion a character that is so unwilling to stand up for herself. Ida lets herself be treated like a doormat by those around her while she waits for a charming Englishman to sweep her off her feet. But more troubling is the course her relationship with Phillip takes – after a few time-consuming and needless on-again-off-again moments, it is only solidified in the final moments when Ida’s hair has grown back and sporting a spunky cropped hairstyle. If this was a film about unconditional love and falling in love with someone despite their flaws, it would have made a much more powerful statement for this moment to occur much earlier, when she had no hair.

The strengths, however, lay in the quirks of the crazy family members that have gathered for the occasion. Steen is a hoot, providing many of the laughs that nicely balance the feather-heavy plot and beautiful scenery. Love Is All You Need tries hard to leave you with warm fuzzies, but forgets that you can have romantic sentiment and still create a ballsy female heroine.

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