As if audiences haven’t had a few ensemble films so far this year—what with Disconnect still in theaters—and The Big Wedding opening to underwhelming reception last weekend, Sony Pictures Classics is giving moviegoers another ensemble with a wedding setting. But instead of an American family and Colombian family gathering in Connecticut, this time we have English and Danish families together for a wedding in Italy. Susanne Bier’s Love is All You Need captures everything one might expect to see and feel at a wedding: romance, family drama, drinking, partying and awkward speeches.
While considering a spot in an airport parking structure, Ida (Trine Dyrholm) crashes into Philip’s (Pierce Brosnan) car and discovers he is the father of the young man about to marry her daughter. Not only that, but they are taking the same flight and taxi to the house where the families are set up. Soon they discover they’re both rather unsatisfied with their lives. Ida’s just discovered her husband’s left her for a younger woman and Philip has been a widow for a decade. All the while, his son has distanced himself from Philip. The soon-to-be wed couple, Patrick (Sebastian Jessen) and Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind), is experiencing butterflies and cold feet. Meanwhile, once everyone’s set up in Philip’s old house for the event, Ida’s husband, Leif (Kim Bodnia) arrives with his new, bubbly girlfriend Tilde (Christiane Schaumburg-Müller), and Philip’s clingy sister-in-law Benedikte (Paprika Steen) brings her bratty daughter Alexandra (Frederikke Thomassen). On the sidelines, Ida and Philip begin to spark a companionship.
In the grand tradition of wedding themes, one might expect the romance to be from the perspective of the bride and groom, but here Bier and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen take a cue from Robert Altman’s A Wedding and Mike Newell’s Four Weddings and a Funeral, and make the main couple guests at the ceremony. And to top it off, they are middle-aged protagonists, which can usually be harder to market to audiences. But despite their ages, Ida and Philip’s characteristics and chemistry aren’t boring and even become a bit youthful in some scenes (such as when Philip notices Ida skinny dipping). Bier has already focused on family dysfunction on screen with Open Hearts and Things We Lost in the Fire, and has featured a wedding in After the Wedding. In Love is All You Need audiences get both elements, but in a slightly lighter mood, though not very comedic either. Jensen, Bier’s usual script writer, sets up the characters in amusing situations. Such as Benedikte giving a tipsy dinner speech where she embarrasses Philip and insults Alexandra, or Philip later giving Benedikte a reality check. But he still keeps the tone serious and romantic.
While a lot of viewers still picture him as 007, Brosnan manages to convince us he’s a workaholic who’s grouchy, anti-social and unaware of how to connect with his family. Though charming in his scenes with Dyrholm, he shows range across Steen and Jessen. The film opens with Dyrholm, and from the moment she’s on film she carries the movie admirably. Just by using her facial expressions does the audience see her confusion and frustration with her husband’s selfishness, and her adjusting to life after a cancer scare. Jessen is fine as the son who doesn’t know if he should get married for love or his father’s respect, but Egelind and Schaumburg-Müller are the stand-outs of the younger cast members. Particularly memorable is a sequence where the latter flirts with Ida’s son (played by Mickey Skeel Hansen) while drinking at a pre-wedding party.
Love is All You Need is set in foreign countries (Denmark and Italy) with mostly foreign characters speaking Danish half of the time with English subtitles. Since subtitles can be a turn-off for ordinary film viewers, there have been exceptions for past foreign hits (Life is Beautiful, Volver, A Separation, even the retro silent flick The Artist to name a few). All You Need might not be a huge, award-worthy smash, but it’s sweet and charismatic enough to find a modest size film audience. Though there are a few plot holes left involving the young couple and Benedikte’s daughter, the variety of characters and the courtship between Ida and Philip make the film enjoyable nonetheless. Bier’s film isn’t exactly a romantic comedy, but hits all the right notes for people looking for a cute weekend flick.