The idea of the one-time James Bond returning for romance in a Mediterranean idyll has all the appeal of week-old reheated pasta.
Love Is All You Need (M) — 4 stars
Pierce Brosnan, Trine Dyrholm
DIRECTOR: SUSANNE BIER
REVIEW: MARK NAGLAZAS
You'll like this if you liked Moonstruck, Under the Tuscan Sun, As Good As It Gets, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Something's Gotta Give, It's Complicated.
After Pierce Brosnan warbled wonkily through Mamma Mia!, the least-deserving worldwide smash since My Big Fat Greek Wedding (and that Korean YouTube guy), the idea of the one-time James Bond returning for romance in a Mediterranean idyll has all the appeal of week-old reheated pasta.
And the generic, Beatle-ish title, which is quoted in the film, doesn't help. Declaring "love is all you need" in a romantic comedy is as redundant as saying "bullets kill people" in an action movie, "the clock is ticking" in a thriller or "singing makes me feel good" in a musical".
But not long into Love Is All You Need it becomes apparent we're in good hands with Danish director Susanne Bier, who brings the same deft touch to this comedy-drama as her more serious-minded films, such as Open Hearts, Brothers and her best foreign language film Oscar winner In a Better World.
Indeed, Bier's facility for relationship drama anchors All You Need Is Love, pushing this tale of a vivacious Copenhagen hairdresser and recent cancer survivor who helps to warm up an emotionally frozen businessman during the wedding of their respective daughter and son beyond cliche and schmaltz into the terrain of truth and well-earned uplift.
The film opens with Ida (Trine Dyrholm) telling her doctor that she won't need a breast reconstruction because her husband Leif (Kim Bodnia) loves her just the way she is. A blonde wig to cover her bald head is all she'll need.
However, when Ida arrives home she finds Leif bonking a much younger woman from his office, an event that not only fractures the marriage but complicates the upcoming nuptials of her daughter Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) to Patrick (Sebastian Jessen) in a beautiful Italian villa owned by his wealthy father.
On the way to the airport a distressed Ida, who is going to the wedding solo, crashes her proletarian car into a luxury model, which turns out to be driven by her future in-law, fruit and vegetable mogul Philip (Brosnan), who blows a gasket at the sight of his damaged vehicle. Relations remain strained in Italy, amped up by the appalling snobby sister of Philip's late wife (a very funny Paprika Steen).
Eventually, however, the beauty of the setting - it's a tastefully tarted-up farmhouse with a lovely working lemon grove, which was the foundation of Philip's business - eventually works its magic and the seemingly mismatched couple find a connection amid the chaos and tension of the wedding preparation.
Again, all of this sounds very standard. But Bier and her wonderful leads, Brosnan and Dyrholm, create very rich and believable characters, adults who've lived lives and suffered losses and are careful about plunging into another relationship.
The ageless, still incredibly handsome Brosnan is an actor without much range but he works effectively within that narrow spectrum, bringing a real humanity to those God-given good looks; while the radiant Dyrholm strikes the perfect balance between natural ebullience and uncertainty about her future in the wake of cancer treatment.
Indeed, balance is the best way to describe Bier's directing. She manages to walk the line between the anguish of Ida's situation and the dark secrets of Philip's son and the crazy comedy that naturally bubbles up in wedding movies (it makes you wonder what P.J. Hogan's Mental might have been with a little more Bier-like control and restraint).
I don't want to overpraise Love Is All You Need, especially for a film that gives us Dino crooning It's Amore seemingly every five minutes.
But it is a relief to have a comedy in which a couple of attractive older folks and their adult concerns are at the centre of a movie instead of being the comic relief.
Support it and we may just see cinema start reflecting the grown-up audience who are heading back in droves. A good movie is all you need.