In the vernacular of romantic comedy, meet un-cutes are the new meet-cutes: It’s better to have your predestined paramours bump into each other in ugly, unsavory circumstances than noxiously adorable ones, even if the circumstance is just as implausible.
In the Danish-English film “Love is All You Need,” Ida (Trine Dyrholm), a hairdresser who has just discovered that her husband is having an affair with the office bimbo, fender-bends the luxury car of Philip (Pierce Brosnan) in a Danish airport. He yells and screams the traditional invectives – “Why weren’t you looking?!,” etc. – but both parties soon discover that they’re bound for the same plane and same destination: His son is marrying her daughter in Italy, in his very lemon grove. What a co-ink-ee-dink. The more these two converse, the more they seem like oil and water, and the more transparent their eventual coupling becomes.
Set among a copious ensemble at a disastrous wedding, “Love is All You Need” arrives just a month after “The Big Wedding,” and while I’m sure this sun-dappled art-house flick is superior to that crass Hollywood clunker, it gladly adheres its own formulaic conventions. It feels like especially lightweight, pedestrian material for director Susanne Bier, who won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for 2010’s “In a Better World.” For many years, Bier specialized in gripping, fly-on-the-wall narratives about domestic life in which one person’s incapacitated state affected his or her relationships; “Open Hearts,” “Brothers” and “Things We Lost in the Fire” come to mind.
“Love is All You Need” at least has an occasional echo of vintage Bier naturalism and struggle. Ida has lost a breast, and her hair, to cancer she’s still fighting, so her realization that life is limited and must be cherished has a plausible motivating factor. “Love is All You Need” may be the only mainstream movie I’ve ever seen to show an unreconstructed, post-op breast, in an especially vulnerable and beautiful moment in the film.
Indeed, the movie is best when reality intervenes, smudging the paint-by-numbers rom-com. In addition to the cancer, there are themes of self-delusion, teenage substance abuse and latent homosexuality among the wedding’s other guests – real problems without easy solutions, presented alongside a rogue’s gallery of simple stock characters. Tilde (Christiane Schaumburg-Muller), the uncouth ditz that Ida’s husband crudely brings to the wedding, is straight out of central casting, and even Brosnan’s character is a thin, familiar creation. I’ve seen drones with more sentiment than this aggressively single, workaholic widower, who hates the world for her wife’s death and for whom hugging his son is as awkward as embracing a lizard.
“Love is All You Need” works, when it does work, because, under Bier’s direction, Brosnan and Dyrholm sell it so beautifully, working through the perfunctory bits of generic convention to get to the truthful moments beneath them. At nearly two hours, the film takes a long time to reach the inevitable, but in the hands of a lesser director it could have been a lot longer.
“Love is All You Need” opens Friday at Cinemark Palace 20 and Regal Shadowood 16 in Boca Raton, Regal Delray Beach 18, Cinemark Boynton Beach, The Classic Gateway Theater in Fort Lauderdale, Cinemark Paradise 24 in Davie, and Regal South Beach 18.