If someone decides to mount a festival to showcase films whose plots revolve around a wedding, it could go on for months. The latest entry in this burgeoning sub-genre comes from Denmark. “Love Is All You Need” (“Den skaldede frisør”) is billed as a romantic comedy, but there’s a lot of drama in it as well. And, as often happens with films of this sort, it’s a blend of both fresh and stale elements.
I didn’t have much hope for any originality when the title comes from a Beatles refrain (“All You Need Is Love”) but the title song is Dean Martin singing “That’s Amore.” Yes, this film from director Susanne Bier is set in Italy (filmed in picturesque Sorrento, overlooking the Bay of Naples), but way too many films have paid Dino to croon that tune, and the 1988 Best Picture nominee “Moonstruck” even used it in the title sequence.
Other familiar elements include a “meet cute” that’s a hallmark of nearly every romantic comedy. Here viewers are expected to believe the coincidence that the mother of the bride-to-be and father of the groom-to-be could be involved in an automobile accident at an airport garage. And in the opposites-attract tradition, Philip (Pierce Brosnan) is a sourpuss workaholic who’s been angry at the world ever since his wife died, and Ida (Trine Dyrholm) is a free spirit who loves life so much that it’s contagious. The wrinkle is that she’s fighting breast cancer and dealing with a husband (Kim Bodnia) who’s been less than supportive, more interested in a young co-worker (Christiane Schaumburg-Müller) than in her.
Of course the bride- and groom-to-be (Molly Blixt Egelind as Astrid, Sebastian Jessen as Patrick) have their own dramas, and near-opposite personalities. Fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, you know, and differences surface instantly as they enter Patrick’s old home in Italy, which his father has graciously let them use for the wedding. She sees a romantic place that won’t take much to fix up, and he sees an old wreck that requires a lot of work before they can even think about welcoming guests. There are other complications and twists, but to divulge those would be to spoil it for viewers.
There’s something about a free spirit, even in a movie, that makes everything and everyone around her feel more vibrant. Free spirits are forces of nature, half-full people whose cup remains so no matter how much they share with others, and Dyrholm and Blixt Egelind are fantastic in their respective mother-daughter roles. Brosnan and Jessen turn in some pretty good performances themselves, the strength of which are the transitions across their characters’ arcs. And of course there’s that phenomenal scenery, shot in Salerno and Copenhagen as well as Sorrento by Morten Søborg, who uses the long shots as a constant backdrop to the drama . . . and humor. There’s some depth here, too, including plenty of irony—like a bald hairdresser, for one thing.
My chief criticism is of the third-act pacing. Anyone who knows the romantic comedy formula knows what’s going to happen, and while I can understand taking a little time so as not to rush to get there, the final scenes felt unnecessarily protracted.
Still, “Love Is All You Need” is the kind of film that’s uplifting enough to compensate for its clichés and other shortcomings.
“Love Is All You Need” is a film in Danish, French, and English, with English subtitles. It has a runtime of 116 minutes and is rated R for brief sexuality, nudity and some language. It’s a Sony Pictures Classics release.
“Love Is All You Need” is available on DVD and Blu-ray, but opt for the latter. The scenery plays such a large part that you don’t want to skimp on this one. And the AVC/MPEG-4 transfer to a 25GB disc is a good one. Colors are vibrant, the vistas look like postcard shots, and there are no compression issues, no noticeable DNR, and no banding or aliasing as I could tell. It’s presented in 2.35:1 widescreen.
The featured audio is a Danish and French (Parisian) DTS-HD MA 5.1 with English subtitles set as the default. Additional subtitles are in English SDH and French. Just as the visual presentation is nearly pristine, so is the sound. You hear it when the vehicles crash, you hear it when doors slam, or when the celebratory music kicks in.
Surprisingly there’s a nice bunch of extras here. The cast was interviewed at the Venice Film Festival, and those are here. Trine Dyrholm also narrates a behind-the-scenes featurette, and appears in a Q&A along with Pierce Brosnan, Susanne Bier, and Anders Thomas Jensen. Joining director Bier on the commentary track is Brosnan, and you can tell the admiration that each had for the other and the affection they both had for the project.
Calling “Love Is All You Need” a romantic comedy is probably a stretch, but if the word doesn’t make you wince it comes closer to a romantic “dramedy.” There’s plenty of energy in this film, and all of the principal actors are asked to cover a wide range of emotions. They really bring a lot to their characters, and that plays a major part in making “Love Is All You Need” a success.