TRUE LOVE’S TORTURED PATH
(M) ★★★★✩ Limited release on Thursday
(M) ★★ Limited release
W✩✩ HAT sort of film borrows its title from a Beatles song, has Dean Martin singing That’s Amore on the soundtrack, is set mainly in the Italian seaside town of Sorrento, and stars Pierce Brosnan, best remembered as the last James Bond before Daniel Craig? If you answered that Love Is All You Need sounds like another Hollywood romantic tearjerker you would be right enough; it does. But it turns out to be a Danish-language art-house film directed by Susanne Bier, with a screenplay by Anders Thomas Jensen, and for me, one of the year’s most satisfying and sophisticated entertainments. It comes officially branded as a ‘‘ romance’’ — in other words, a love story, and a rather old-fashioned one, unburdened by gratuitous sex scenes, crude language and the awkward contrivances that so often go to make the modern romantic comedy.
There are really two love stories, covering two generations. The young lovers — Patrick (Sebastian Jessen) and Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) — are planning their wedding, which is to take place in a beautiful villa by the sea. Patrick’s father Philip (Brosnan), a widower and successful businessman, and Astrid’s mother Ida (Trine Dyrholm), a hairdresser, meet by chance on their way to the wedding. They have never met before. And it will spoil no one’s pleasure if I reveal that the father of the groom and the mother of the bride are soon as much in love as their offspring. But as we know from long movie experience, all sorts of obstacles lie in the path of true love.
Philip, with memories of his lost wife Elizabeth, is still troubled by grief and angry with the world. He has resolved not to marry again (‘‘I’m a guy who’s chosen to be by myself,’’ he says, in words that Bond himself might have used). Ida has been treated for breast cancer and is not sure whether her treatment has succeeded. And she has just discovered her boorish husband, Leif (Kim Bodnia), has been unfaithful, cleverly timing his trysts with the office bimbo Thilde (Christiane Schaumburg-Muller) to coincide with Ida’s chemotherapy sessions. Other complications — family tensions, echoes of past follies — accumulate as the story unfolds.
I should make it clear that although this is a Danish film, not all the characters speak Danish. It is a relief to discover, for example, that Brosnan speaks English — a Danishspeaking Bond would have been too much of a shock for English-speaking audiences — and since Philip is meant to be an Englishman, or perhaps an Irishman, speaking English makes perfect sense. By good fortune, Ida also speaks English (or else has been cleverly dubbed) — thereby avoiding the need for subtitling during some of the film’s most intimate and stressful scenes. But Patrick and Astrid speak Danish together and Patrick speaks English with his father. None of this should matter greatly, but those who dislike subtitled films (and I know many people do) can be reassured Love Is All You Need plays for much of the time like an English-language drama.
Weddings in films rarely go smoothly and Patrick and Astrid’s wedding plans prove to be no exception. Great films have turned on lastminute changes of heart at the altar — no less a scriptwriter than Shakespeare set the pattern with Hero and Claudio’s sadly aborted nuptials in Much Ado About Nothing. On the big day, things get off to a bad start when Leif turns up with his floozy in tow, Ida wakes up and feels a lump in her neck, Astrid begins to have doubts (does Patrick really love her?) and Patrick has a showdown with his father. Philip also delivers a cruel put-down to his amorous sisterin-law, who sees herself taking the place of his lost wife. As the wedding draws near, children vent their anger with parents, old lusts are rekindled, gays are mistaken for straights and eating disorders are revealed. More than one apology is given and accepted.