A wedding under the Mediterranean sun, guests arrive from far and away, crises and revelations ensue… All this, and Pierce Brosnan too – it’s enough to make you think you’ve seen this movie already and it was called ‘Mamma Mia!’.
No. Banish that thought. There may be similarities, but where the Abba-powered musical offered as much dramatic construction as was needed to string the songs together, esteemed Danish director Susanne Bier’s latest film shows what happens when a gifted filmmaker uses the contrivances of commercial moviedom to deliver an affecting story about very real emotional needs. Yes, this romantic drama set on the Amalfi coast in Italy is a lighter affair than the moral conflict zone of Bier’s 2010 Oscar-winner, ‘In a Better World’, but it shares the same genuine respect for the everyday dilemmas grounding the twists and reversals laid out to entertain us.
Take Trine Dyrholm’s Copenhagen hairdresser, for instance, who’s itching under a blonde wig after cancer treatment. She’s devastated to discover her hubby has been been shagging the girl from accounts. Her self-esteem is crushed, and though proud that her daughter’s getting married, the whole occasion’s pretty daunting – especially when her man brings along his gormless young lover. The nuptials are set to be a bit of a trial for the groom’s father too. Successful fruit importer Pierce Brosnan is not looking forward to returning to the picturesque spot he associates with his late wife, whose accidental death has prompted him to bury himself in work ever since. Indeed, spending time with his son is merely another reminder of how he hasn’t been much of a dad.
With Dean Martin on the soundtrack (‘That’s Amore’, of course), delectable locations much in evidence, and the story headed pretty much where you’d expect, it would be easy to write this off as mere sun-splashed soap. Yet ‘Love Is All You Need’ is so much truer than that because the actors clearly relish the chance to play authentic feeling and Bier’s ever alert to pick up on their contribution. Brosnan, for instance, really steps up, delivering every nuance in what’s possibly the finest role he’s ever had, eclipsed only by Dyrholm’s heartfelt and heartrending portrayal of a woman who’s so long taken herself for granted she’s surprised to be loved. The cliché-averse will doubtless resist, but the laughter and tears here are never less than fully earned. A lovely film.