August 1, 2014

Love is All You Need: Romantic comedy surprise

As we look ahead to the summer movie season — with a parade of blockbusters scheduled for theaters — the Reel Dad checks out the nutritional value of some smaller films that open soon. This week’s pick is Love Is All You Need, a romantic comedy from Denmark starring Pierce Brosnan.

 

When the weather outside is impossible to predict, and another cold day seems to follow each warm one, basking in the sunshine of a romantic comedy can be an ideal movie treat.

Love is All You Need is a smart, surprising and satisfying film that reaches beyond its familiar situations with original characters and develops its story in fresh ways. While the film may begin with people and places we have seen in other movie romances, director Susanne Bier refuses to let her story descend into the predictable. As her interesting adults confront the realities of love during middle age — without the usual jokes about senior romance — Bier makes what could be ordinary sound and look original.

The opening looks familiar. A woman discovers her husband is unfaithful as she prepares for her daughter’s wedding, endures a job without a future, and fears for her long-term health after completing radiation treatment for cancer. Clearly she is not in the best place to begin a new chapter in her life. When she accidentally meets the father of her daughter’s fiancé, a bitter widower who shuts out the world, she embraces the possibilities. And when all the players arrive in a picturesque Italian coast setting — similar to the Greek setting for Mamma Mia — we wonder if Pierce Brosnan may sing again.

Thank goodness Bier is too creative for that. Once she concludes the predictable set-up, Bier begins to explore how lasting relationships begin, endure threats, survive change and ultimately thrive. She introduces a father trying to come to terms with the time he did not spend with his son, a young man uncertain if he should follow the conventional path to marriage, and a mother hoping to avoid the end of her marriage as she prepares her daughter for this same milestone. This lady is a resilient survivor of cancer, a thoughtful and supportive mother, and a friend to her daffy co-worker. In a lovely performance, Danish actress Trine Dyrholm helps us believe the possibilities of romance without questioning its authenticity. And, as the father, Pierce Brosnan brings an engaging vulnerability to his portrayal of a man who must give up his need to control so he can move beyond the tragedy of the past.

As refreshing as the film may be, Bier refuses to let it try to become more than it should. This is not a detailed examination of a woman’s fight with cancer even though Ida’s cancer defines much of how she sees her life. Nor is it a detailed look at parent-child relationships even though such successes and failures influence the outcome. But this is not substance-free. Love is All You Need has a lot to say about how people can discover how love opens their lives. And it’s too smart to predict how its story will end.

“I’d like to think the ending goes in one direction,” Bier said as we recently talked about the film, “but I want the audience to use its imagination. And I wouldn’t look for a sequel.” Brosnan, as well, commented, “I think the characters are ultimately optimistic and, at these ages, we all need something to hope for.” How marvelous, as we wish that spring would stay, for a film to celebrate possibilities.

 

Film Nutritional Value

Love Is All You Need

* Content: High. Once the predictable set-up concludes, the fresh appeal of this romantic comedy offers welcome entertainment.

* Entertainment: High. By carefully developing the characters, and reaching beyond its potential predictability, Love Is All You Need surprises with each situation.

* Message: Medium. While we do not expect romantic comedies to be message films, this one reveals the hope that love can generate.

* Relevance: Medium. Any opportunity to spend time with interesting characters can be a welcome break for the spring.

* Opportunity for Dialogue: Medium. While this is not a film for the family, you and your older children may find it fun to share such a fresh film.

(Love Is All You Need is rated R for “brief sexuality, nudity and some language.” The film runs 116 minutes.)

4 Popcorn Buckets