More than a romcom, 'Love' stands on story and humor

By |
Entertainment,Movies,Kelly Jane Torrance

What's in a name? When you see the marquee of the movie "Love Is All You Need," you likely assume it's a romantic comedy -- and feel confirmed when you see Pierce Brosnan's handsome visage on the poster.

But the original title of this Danish film is, translated into English, "The Bald Hairdresser." That creates a very different impression, doesn't it?

There's certainly romance in the film, and there are many laugh-out-loud moments. But there's also an important dose of gravity. Neither title quite captures the strange but successful mix that makes "Love Is All You Need" one of the best films of the first half of the year.

On screen
'Love Is All You Need'
» Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars
» Starring: Molly Blixt Egelind
» Director: Susanne Bier
» Rated: R for brief sexuality, nudity and some language
» Running time: 116 minutes

The bald hairdresser of the Danish title is Ida (Trine Dyrholm), who wears a wig after chemotherapy for breast cancer took away her hair. The movie's opening scene takes place in Ida's doctor's office, as she waits to hear if her treatment was successful.

But this isn't a morbid scene -- at least, not completely. The doctor asks Ida if she's considered reconstructive surgery. It's not necessary, Ida responds, because her husband loves her just the way she is: "Inner values matter more to him. I doubt he's even noticed one is missing."

A couple scenes later, Ida comes home early one day to find her husband, Leif (Kim Bodnia), in flagrante delicto with the much-younger "Tilde from accounting" (Christiane Schaumburg-Muller). Leif doesn't beg for forgiveness. He explains, quite calmly, that Ida's illness has been difficult on him. And that he'll see her in Italy in a few days, when their daughter gets married.

The ethereal beauty Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) is in that sunny country to marry Patrick (Sebastian Jessen) at his father's villa. The trip brings back painful memories for dad Philip (Brosnan), a British businessman who planned to live at the villa until his Danish wife died when Patrick was a child. Philip is a bit of the stereotypical successful workaholic, except that he has no need of a trophy wife. He's "chosen to be by myself," he explains when his attractive young blond secretary propositions him.

Ida and Philip run into each other on the way to Italy -- quite literally. An upset Ida backs her tiny car into Philip's luxury sedan at the airport. It doesn't make a good first impression, but once they discover they're about to become family, they make the best of it. But as in an E.M. Forster novel, Italy is going to bring surprises to all of the foreigners who visit.

It's true that "Love Is All You Need" has some of the cliches of the romcom. Ida doesn't much like Philip at first. "I don't understand why anyone would work for you, when you're so awful, and stupid, and not nice," she says, after listening to his phone calls on the way from the airport to the villa. Philip pauses before responding good-naturedly, "I pay them good money."

Though some of the plot points come as no surprise -- Leif brings Tilde to Italy for the wedding, ensuring plenty of drama -- the quality of filmmaking does. Unless, of course you're familiar with the work of Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier. In that case, you know from the start that "Love Is All You Need" will end up no typical Hollywood genre film. While her latest with frequent writing collaborator Anders Thomas Jensen is lighter than their previous works, such as the masterful "After the Wedding," there's no mistaking the thoughtfulness at its core. It takes just a few seconds, for example, to see the relationship between father and son after Philip arrives at the villa.

That's also thanks to the actors voicing the lines and, more important, showing what's between them. Brosnan is very enjoyable to watch in his second career as an older leading man. But it's the lesser-known Dyrholm. The younger Tilde has nothing on this graceful, luminous woman. Even without her wig, she's immensely beautiful. That's because her face seems to be reflecting that more important "inner beauty" she talks of in the opening scene. That's another thing this marvelous movie reminds us: Appearances can be deceiving. Just like the translated titles of foreign films.

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Kelly Jane Torrance

Washington Examiner Movie Critic
The Washington Examiner