Love Is All You Need: From Denmark Via Italy

There are so few films about grown-up protagonists these days, especially in the summer season, that it is with great regret that I have to criticize Susanne Bier’s new romantic serio comedy, “Love IS All You Need” as a disappointing picture.

The gifted Danish director has most recently won the Best oreign Language Oscar for “In a Better World,” a decent (though not great) film that somehow never found its American audience–it is one of the lowest grossing Oscar-winning films.

The problem with “Love Is All You Need,” which Bier wrote with her frequent collaborator, Anders Thomas Jensen, is not its subject matter, romance between middle-aged individuals, or tone, which is decidedly non-sentimental.

The main shortcomings are in the conception of the narrative, which is rather shallow and conventional and the characters, which lack interesting interior lives to engage our attention.

Add to it the cliché notion that sunny Italy—here the glorious landscape of Sorrento–and its friendly ambience bring out the best in the most remote and detached people and you get a flat-footed, heavy handed melodrama.

You cannot fault the actors. In his post-James Bond era, Pierce Brosnan (pushing 60) still looks good and possesses some charm. He plays Philip, a Brit living in Denmark. In the first reel, it’s quickly established that he is a lonely middle-aged man, a function of being a widower and an estranged single father.

Ida, his female counterpart, is a Danish hairdresser, in the process of recovering from a long bout with cancer illness and from being abandoned by her long-time husband for a much younger woman, Tilde.

It’s only a matter of time before these two lonely and damaged kindred souls will cross paths to the point where their fates become inevitably intertwined.

Philip and Ida meet rather conveniently—in a cute and movieish way–when they travel to Italy to attend the wedding of Patrick and Astrid, who (surprise!) just happen to be Philip’s son and Ida’s daughter.

In the ensuing chapters, which are utterly conventional, Bier charts the growing affection between the two, with all its ups and downs, highs and lows, joys and pains, scenes and moods that we have seen in countless other pictures, both American and foreign.

As noted, the movie is not sentimental but the narrative is schematically and utterly naïve in its upbeat philosophy that, no matter how wounded you are, life goes on.

This is Bier’s first romantic comedy since 1999 when she broke Danish box office records with “The One and Only.” One can relate to her wish to make a romantic comedy, after a string of dramatically intense dramas (Öpen Hearts,”Äfter the Wedding,” the original Danish “Brothers,” later remade as an American movie). But the lack of genuine humor disqualifies this picture from being a heartfelt or spontaneous romantic comedy, half of which unfolds as a routine melodrama.