TRUE LOVE’S TOR­TURED PATH

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Evan Wil­liams

(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.

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