Romantic comedy's tale of beginnings and endings doesn't quite gel

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED (M) RATING: 3/5 Selected release 111 minutes


Selected release 111 minutes

DANISH director Susanne Bier makes movies that take interesting risks. She works in collaboration with scriptwriter Anders Thomas Jensen and they create melodramas with a naturalistic feel and a sympathetic edge, in which the comedy is black and the emotions raw and uncomfortable.

When the pair start work on a film, Bier told me several years ago, they always intend to write light-hearted comedies. Yet they find themselves going elsewhere, into darker, grimmer territory. In their latest film, however, it is as if they were determined to hang on to something lighter.

Love Is All You Need (the Danish title translates as The Bald Hairdresser) is a slighter movie than anything they have done before, yet it also comes across, in a strange way, as a patchwork of elements from their films Open Hearts, Brothers, After The Wedding and A Better World.

The romantic comedy works hard to hang on to a sense of lightness. It's a movie about beginnings and endings; there are life-changing moments and characters struggling to come to terms with grief and mortality. There's a wedding, a soldier serving overseas, a life-threatening illness, impossible attractions and unhappy couples. But there's another element - the spectre of Mamma Mia! that is bound to hover over any movie about impending nuptials in a seaside location that stars Pierce Brosnan.

Brosnan gives a nicely calculated, restrained performance as Phillip, a work-obsessed widower whose son is getting married. The son, Patrick (Sebastian Jessen) has decided the wedding will be in an old Italian mansion in Sorrento, where Phillip met his Danish wife, Elisabeth, who died years ago. Things are a little awkward between him and his fiancee, Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) but he refuses to acknowledge this.

Family and friends descend, most notably Ida (Trine Dyrholm), Astrid's mother. When we meet Ida, she is in a doctor's rooms, talking about her chemotherapy. Ida, depicted with grace and warmth by Dyrholm is good-natured and too ready to forgive her high-handed husband, Leif (Kim Bodnia).

Inevitably, things start to change. But amid the sunlight and warmth, there are some heavy-handed touches. Love Is All You Need has its pleasures, but knowing what Bier and Jensen are capable of, it disappointments, too.

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