Susanne Bier, the Danish director who emerged from Lars von Trier's militantly minimalist Dogma school, is hardly known for her rom-coms. Damaged war veterans, paralyzed accident victims, dark family secrets . . . not exactly a laff riot.
And so, while Love Is All You Need has a certain feel-good Hollywood vibe (if the English-language remake isn't in development as we speak, then I'll eat my muesli right now), it also has breast cancer and betrayal and not-gladly-suffered fools going for it, too.
The movie stars the quite wonderful Trine Dyrholm as Ida, a beautician recovering from chemotherapy and a mastectomy - and from finding her husband (Kim Bodnia) intimately engaged with a ditsy blond. Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind), the daughter of Ida and her philandering spouse, is about to be married, and so it's off to an overgrown but idyllic estate on the Italian coast. The place belongs to the father of Astrid's fiancé, Patrick (Sebastian Jessen). Philip, the father, lives and works in Denmark, he is English, and he is played by Pierce Brosnan. A widower, and a workaholic, he barks orders at his staff and takes his cell phone with him everywhere he goes.
Need I say more? Ida, still reeling from her cancer and her lout of a husband, and Philip, who has closed his life off to the possibility of love, meet-cute in the airport parking lot (a fender bender), and then find themselves sharing an airplane and then walking along the beach and strolling through lemon trees, bickering at first and then not bickering at all.
Brosnan is good, and he and Dyrholm erase any and all signs of contrivance in the plot, the script. Their characters' respective offspring have their own issues to deal with as the wedding day approaches, and, yes, Ida's husband is there, oblivious to the embarrassment he's caused by bringing his bimbo lover along on the trip.
The original Danish title of Love Is All You Need translates as The Bald Hairdresser. That's less cute and cliched, and more intriguing, perhaps. But Love Is All You Need works fine. Bier and her two leads make you want to believe it's true.
Love Is All You Need *** (Out of four stars)
Directed by Susanne Bier. With Trine Dyrholm, Pierce Brosnan, Sebastian Jessen, and Molly Blixt Egelind. In Danish with subtitles, and in English. Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.
Running time: 1 hour, 56 mins.
Parent's guide: R (nudity, sex, profanity, adult themes)
Playing at: Ritz Bourse and Rave Motion Pictures/NJ