Human affairs of the heart

Actress Trine Dyrholm, actor Pierce Brosnan and director Susan Bier at the "Love Is All You Need" premiere.
Actress Trine Dyrholm, actor Pierce Brosnan and director Susan Bier at the "Love Is All You Need" premiere.


(M) (111 min)

Directed by Susanne Bier.

Starring Pierce Brosnan, Trine Dyrholm.

According to the trailer, and I'm guessing we're getting the publicity for Love is All You Need that was put together for the North American market, this film is a lightweight romcom starring Pierce Brosnan, and set on some romantic isle off a particularly telegenic bit of the Mediterranean coast.

''Oh joy'', I think, slumping into my seat. ''It's Mamma Mia! without the singing ...''And then one of those nice moments happened, one of the happy little surprises that keep me enjoying the job week in and week out. Up on screen appear the words ''Directed by Susanne Bier''.

Bier was the director of After The Wedding, and In a Better World. After The Wedding was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Academy Award, and four years later In a Better World won it. Bier is a seriously talented and intelligent director. She has a great gift for interweaving family dramas. And it goes without saying that the women in her films exist to do a lot more than simply react to whatever the men are up to, which seems to have been the Hollywood default setting for women characters for far too many years.

So Love is All You Need suddenly acquired an expectation of at least a little dramatic heft, and the hope of something more than another by-the-numbers popcorn flogger. All of which it kind of lives up to.

Trine Dyrholm, who also worked with Bier on In a Better World, is Ida. She is married, upbeat, and greatly looking forward to a trip to Italy to be with her daughter at her wedding to the handsome son of a successful local fruit and vege wholesaler. She is also having chemotherapy for suspected breast cancer, a fact she seems determined not to bother anyone with. Least bothered of all would appear to be her lumpen boor of a husband, who sees her hospital visits as an opportunity for a quick bout of infidelity on the couch with ''Thilde from accounts''.

Marriage - thankfully - seemingly over, Ida plans to go to Italy alone. That the setting for the wedding should be an ancient and swooningly romantic pile, surrounded by lemon groves, and owned by the widowed father of the groom, who just happens to be very pleasingly played by Pierce Brosnan, is all those in  the marketing department want you to know.

But what the marketing doesn't hint at, is just how well-written and well thought-through so much of this film is. While it ticks every box it needs to, there is also some genuine drama and pathos going on here. The chemistry between Brosnan and Dyrholm is terrific, but around them a very strong support cast are playing out storylines that challenge and occasionally derail the expected beats of a romcom plot. These are well written and fully human characters, and they get up to some very human stuff.

Love is All You Need works just fine as an affectionate and likeable comedy, with a romance at its centre. But it is built on a sturdier foundation than the genre usually provides. It provoked a bit of discussion in the car on the way home. Expecting not much, I got to see a very decent film.

The Dominion Post