BIFF 2013 - Love Is All You Need - Cinema Review

'A widower, Brosnan's businessman Philip tells us early doors, in a line even Basil Exposition would baulk at, that he is 'a man who has chosen to be alone'.'

Continuing his journey to becoming the British version of latter-day Clint Eastwood - permanently stuck in a thin variety of rolls, all of them featuring the words 'terminally grumpy' - Pierce Brosnan stars in celebrated Danish director Susanne Bier's latest, the rather sunnily titled, Love Is All You Need.

Best known for the Oscar-winning In A Better World, Bier here takes on much rosier-tinted subject matter than she is accustomed too. A widower, Brosnan's businessman Philip tells us early doors, in a line even Basil Exposition would baulk at, that he is 'a man who has chosen to be alone'. Cut sideways to elsewhere in Copenhagen and Ida (Trine Dyrholm), recovering from cancer, discovers her husband (Kim Bodnia) in bed (well, on the sofa) with Thilde (Christiane Schaumburg-Müller). Might the paths of these two loveless middle-agers be about to cross?

Bier's plotting, in a script from her story by Anders Thomas Jensen, provides the answer sooner rather than later. Ida and Philip are about to become in-laws to each other's respective offspring; Philip's son Patrick (Sebastian Jessen) is to wed Ida's daughter Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind), at a ceremony to be held on Philip's lemon grove retreat in Italy. Bon voyage cast members, exotic romance is about to ensue.

If the plot has performed predictably up to now then, sadly, it gets no better. Love Is All You Need plays disappointingly unlike a normal Bier film and rather similarly to a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. The build-up to the wedding, once the assembled throng arrive en masse at Philip's palatial villa, features a check-box of familiar elements; forbidden loves, awful speeches, organisational disasters, temperamental relatives. In such surroundings, the weight is put on the actors to keep us involved.

With Brosnan - as with close compatriot Clint - you're on sure footing, and Dyrholm plays well opposite him. The rest is a mixed bag. Jessen is fantastic as the hapless schlub who seems unaware quite what he's done and Egelind is a charming presence. The comedy relief though, in the form of the incalculably unlikeable Benedikte (Paprika Steen), is anything but. Where she should provide a lighter touch at the centre of the film, she and her hapless, needless daughter, suck out atmosphere. Eventually Bier abandons trying to make her funny and transposes her into the wicked step mother, dispatched deservedly with a severe tongue-lashing by Philip. Worse still from a performance perspective is Jessen, whose mouse-like characterisation doesn't suit the role, giving his performance the impression of falsity every time he opens his mouth.

The over-riding impression left by Love Is All You Need is one not dissimilar to more recent Woody Allen offerings. This is a gentle jaunt into Europe by a director formerly of great things. Some of the wit is left behind, some of the skill too, but, in rare patches the quality remains and when it is tightly focused on Ida and Philip, this can attain a high level of charm.

Love Is All You Need is on general theatrical release in the UK from Friday 19th April.

The 19th Bradford International Film Festival runs from 11th to 21st April 2013 at the National Media Museum and other venues near to the city.

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