Judge Gordon Sullivan likes love, but he needs food, too.
A story about seeking love.
Few films want to acknowledge, let alone confront, love (and sex) in middle age. For every film that focuses on romance after forty, we have a dozen or more that look only at teens or twentysomethings. That makes a film like Love is All You Need even more precious. It's a film that takes a lot of the familiar elements of the romance film and the romantic comedy and spins them for a protagonist who is slightly older and coming to terms with herself. Though it's not entirely a feel-good affair, there are some good laughs and enough poignant moments for fans of the genre to enjoy.
Ida (Trine Dyrholm, A Royal Affair) is a hairdresser who has just won her battle with breast cancer. After she discovers her husband is cheating on her, she sets off to Italy to see her daughter wed. There, she meets the father of the groom (Pierce Brosnan, The World's End), a widower with his own intimacy issues.
The biggest strike against Love is All You need is that it hews too closely to convention. The original Danish title—The Bald Hairdresser—gives away the kind of romantic irony that the genre trades in, where finding love in unexpected places is always expected. Perhaps it might have been more conventional to set the film in Paris; the southern coast of Italy does a fine stand-in for the City of Love, offering sweeping, romantic vistas and a colorful language barrier. Finally, Pierce Brosnan can probably play this kind of role in his sleep, as he moves from outwardly cold businessman to slowly warming charmer.
However, those who dismiss Love is All You Need as yet another romance with some comedic elements will also miss out on a film that has a lot more to say. Though a number of plot elements are recycled from the usual bag of tricks—we have marital infidelity, the wedding of a child, and the question of navigating sex in middle age—but they're treated here with a seriousness that gives them more impact than usual but also a sweetness that ensures the film is not a bitter brew. Director Susanne Bier goes for the delicate, subtle moments that help us understand and appreciate characters even if we don't always like them.
The film is helped immensely by a pitch-perfect cast. Trine Dyrholm is alternately vulnerable and strong, capable of leading but wanting to be swayed. She's the center of the film, and her performance is compelling throughout. Pierce Brosnan is wonderfully cast as her opposite, the widower not really interested in finding a new relationship. The rest of the cast doesn't have quite as much to do as these two, but Molly Blixt Egelind and Sebastian Jessen are wonderful as the unnerved couple-to-be.
I could see someone watching Love is All You Need (Blu-ray) just for the shots of Southern Italy. They've given a great presentation on this disc's 2.35:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer. Detail is strong throughout, and colors are warm and well-saturated. That warm Italian light gets plenty of shots, but black levels that do occur are deep. No serious artefacts show up either. The DTS-HD 5.1 track is mostly overkill for this dialogue-driven piece, but that dialogue comes through clearly throughout. The surrounds get some chances to provide atmosphere as well.
Extras start with a laidback commentary featuring Bier and Brosnan. They discuss the film's origins, shooting the film, and character development. It's a nice track that offers a breezy way back into the film. Biers and Brosnan show up again for a Q&A that also features Dyrholm, and Anders Thomas Jensen, and even more interviews at the Venice Film Festival. Between these interviews we learn a lot about the film's production and what attracted the actors. We also get a behind-the-scenes featurette shot at the Venice Film Festival featuring Trine Dyrholm.
Of course, no matter what praise you give Love is All You Need, viewers must understand that this is Susanna Bier's attempt at pitching it to the cheap seats. She's been making hard-hitting dramatic films for the past several decades, to wide critical acclaim but not much box-office movement. Even films like Things We Lost in the Fire, which boasts names like Halle Berry and Benecio Del Toro on the marquee, is simply too downbeat to win a wide audience. So, for Love is All You Need Bier is obviously lightening things somewhat for a wider audience. This should bring new viewers to her work, but those looking for the visceral impact of Brothers will definitely be disappointed.
Love is All You Need is a fine romantic dramedy. It's probably a bit too weighty for those looking for a light take on falling in love late in life. On the flip side, it's probably not hard-hitting enough for fans of Bier's work in general. That might seem like a narrow audience—a not-too-light/not-too-dark romantic dramedy—but those with moderate expectations and an appreciation of fine acting will get something out of a rental of this flick. That Love is All You Need (Blu-ray) has a rock-solid presentation and the supplements are icing on the cake.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2013 Gordon Sullivan; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.