Since yielding his 007 mantle to Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan, in the tradition of many former A-list leading men given the opportunity (desired or not) to take on smaller roles has wracked up a collection of fine performances. The Matador, Seraphim Falls and The Ghost Writer stand among the best recent examples of Brosnan’s chops and he has now added another to his resume with the more low-key romantic drama Love Is All You Need.
Playing his female foil is Denmark native Trine Dyrholm, who was also one of the leads in last year’s Oscar nominated A Royal Affair. The immediate chemistry the two share stands as one of the film’s strongest elements. The arc at play is certainly a familiar one – a clichéd one even – but sometimes the believable forming of a bond (no pun intended) can elevate even the most well-worn material. Throwing a slight kink into this tale is that these two aging individuals meet at the wedding of their respective children, not to mention there are other family members present at this rustic Italian villa baring deep-seeded secrets that seek to throw further crimps into this yarn.
Love Is All You Need is at its best when it focuses on Phillip and Ida and the soft kinship and eventual affection that develops between Brosnan’s widowed produce importer and Dyrholm’s recently cancer-free hairdresser who has just found out her husband has been having an affair. Oh, did I mention he’s at the wedding too with his bimbo in tow? Yes, it’s these contrivances and forced attempts at conflict and drama that tilt the film more towards the realm of your standard Hollywood romantic comedy, with that twist in particular made all the more awkward considering her initial reaction when she learns of her spouse’s transgressions. Needless to say its one of the more poorly handled “caught cheating” sequences I can recall.
Not to be outdone by that that specific hijink, his former wife’s sister has the hots for him and Phillip’s son may not be the right person for his soon-to-be wife. When deviating from the core story, Love is All You Need becomes needlessly muddled and convoluted, sometimes verging on all-round disaster, but then Brosnan and Dyrholm smooth things back out and we’re invested once again, endlessly aided by the picturesque Italian seaside. Even when it seems like more organic plot directions are sacrificed for the fluffier, schmaltzier arcs (approach them with weightier themes at play or not) the leads keep the material grounded.
Welcomingly out of the blue at one juncture has to be one of the funniest and well executed insult sequences I can recall in which Phillip finally confronts the aforementioned lusting former sister-in-law. The scene not only blends both elements of the formerly callous, dethatched Phillip as well as the slowly warming version of the man but is simply so deliciously gratifying. Even though we don’t know a great deal about the past these two share, the film makes us believe she deserves everything she gets.
The acting from the remaining cast is all very good as well with a few standouts being Ida’s son (Sebastian Jessen) and the brash Benedikte (Paprika Steen). Even the ditsy blond Ida’s cheating husband brings along gets some very funny moments. This messy, somewhat Shakespearian comedy of errors is given life by all the actors who at the very least make us invest in the characters, even if the script has them endeavouring in somewhat moronic directions.
So while sometimes too on the nose (such as having hairdresser Ida loosing her hair to the cancer) or making Phillips a tad to apathetic and absent early on, Love Is All You Need dives head first into conventions of the genre and allows the scenery and leads to take it from there. Director Susan Beir will be tested with some significantly higher profile material with her upcoming 2013 effort Serena with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence but if she handles her actors similarly, it should turn out well. As for this effort, it is a pleasant diversion that serves as a nice deviation from the blockbuster fare currently available.
It's thanks to a calming Italian setting and amiable chemistry between its leads that the film is able to rise above its conventional setup and sometimes erratic and convoluted plot developments.