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Serious Soap

by Laura Leon on June 13, 2013

Love Is All You Need
Directed by Susanne Bier


The slow dissolve of a gray high-rise being washed over in egg-yolk yellow that precedes the narrative of Love Is All You Need is pretty much all you need to know about where this movie, written (with Anders Thomas Jensen) and directed by Susanne Bier, is going. The movie’s protagonist, Ida (Tryne Dyrholm), has just come off chemotherapy, which has left her bald but resilient in her belief that her piggy husband Leif will love her come what may. To prove it, she returns home with the ingredients for his favorite lemon pudding only to find him schtupping Tilde from accounting on the living-room couch.


Nevertheless, Ida carries on with the belief that Leif is merely midlife-crisising as she travels to Italy to attend the wedding of their daughter Astrid to the uncertain manchild Patrick. Turns out, Patrick’s got major daddy issues, which comes as no surprise when we meet said sire, Philip (Pierce Brosnan), a successful fruit wholesaler who makes Scrooge look like Pa Walton. Ida and Philip “meet cute” when she slams her yellow mini into his sedan; it gets more painful after that.

In all fairness, Love Is All You Need tries to tackle serious, adult matter that’s usually avoided even in foreign indie movies. Cancer is at the center of everything, and in case we try to forget, Dyrholm lets her wig slip off at times. Also prevalent is the idea of second chances, of choosing to live a life worth living, with someone you love. This is brave stuff, to be sure, and watching Brosnan interact with Dyrholm, especially as his hard shell begins to soften, is very beautiful and memorable.

Still, the movie veers all over the place, especially as the wedding guests descend upon the stunning palazzo overlooking the Bay of Naples—where, as expected, all sorts of things begin to happen. Surprises abound, and the fearless actress Paprika Steen, as Philip’s amorous, avaricious sister-in-law, steals scenes right and left. Bier has a good instinct for how people think and what they’re willing to commit to, and that serves her—and the audience—best in those scenes between the middle-aged main characters. It’s a bit clumsy, but it offers a little something to chew on, and in a season of mega-spectaculars, that can be refreshing.