Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm in Susanne Bier's "Love is All You Need"

It’s a testament I think to the modest charms of Susanne Bier’s new romance Love is All You Need that I went into it feeling cranky and not at all in the mood for a love story, but came out feeling won over. I suppose I should’ve given Bier, better known for darker and more dramatic subjects, the benefit of a doubt that she’d bring something different to the table. Or maybe it’s all Pierce Brosnan who happens to be kind of great as an embittered widower who unexpectedly finds love.

He plays Philip, a man who sealed off his past and threw himself into his work following the untimely death of his wife. The past is brought back to life when his son Patrick (Sebastian Jessen) reopens the old family home in Sorrento Italy where he plans to marry Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) whom it turns out he has only met some months before. There Philip meets Astrid’s mother Ida (Trine Dyrholm) who is simultaneously coping with a cancer prognosis and a husband who has decided to leave her for a much younger woman.

Emotional opposites reflected in the film’s vibrant blue and yellow color palette, dark-haired Philip is smooth but ice cold while blonde Ida is sort of awkward but bubbly and all warmth. They spend most of the movie clashing, but you know from the minute they meet that they’re going to fall in love. Love is All You Need is comfortingly predictable, but somehow not at all stale. The key I think is this hot and cold pairing of Dyrholm and Brosnan. They give the film a weird energy that keeps it afloat.

Brosnan who is as good here as he’s ever been and who in real life lost his wife to cancer in the late 80s, brings a refreshing sharpness and cynicism that cuts through the starry-eyed nonsense and keeps the story from devolving into one of those magical-realist fantasies where spells are cast and everyone winds up blissfully in love.

Despite the title, and despite the gorgeous Mediterranean trappings, this is not one of those fantasies and the film doesn’t offer up love as a cure-all. Indeed, not everyone in the story winds up happily ever after. Instead, love is just a satisfying capper to a larger tale of two people, each bowed by the various slings and arrows of life who nevertheless find a way to work past their tragedies and to find each other in the process. Love isn’t the answer to life. It’s just one of the rewards when you do it right.

3 Responses to “Love is All You Need (2013)”

  1. I saw the trailer to this film and was cautiously hopeful as it seemed promising. Your review, Craig, is encouraging in that regard. Brosnan is an actor who has turned in some solid performances in the past — I was particularly impressed by his work in the film he did with Roman Polanski. I look forward to seeing this one now that your review has confirmed what I’d suspected.

  2. Like Pierre, I have also seen this trailer, and have certainly respected Bier’s previous work. Nice philosophical framing here!

  3. For me it works because of Brosnan. It was also an interesting change of pace for Bier whose films I haven’t always loved.

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