Almost in defiance of the weird burbling consonants and gargled dipthongs of the Danish language, the old-school romantic film from Denmark Love is All You Need, which opens Friday at the Cedar-Lee Theatre, is a lavish film to look at: Sunsets and sunrises over Sorrento, Italy; fecund estates, meandering roads, pebbled beaches. But even the heavenly Italian backdrop can't veil this film's Scandinavian origins. Somberness pervades, and you get the wild idea that this is someone's earnest attempt at Romantic Comedy.
At any rate, there's nothing quite like seeing Pierce Brosnan shirtless these days. Brosnan is Phillip, an all-business fruit-and-vegetable magnate of some distinction, and he's at his lemon-grove villa in southern Italy for the marriage of his son Patrick. Embittered at the world over the loss of his wife years ago, Phillip is wont to gaze upon his citruses from a balcony, e'er the sun rises, letting the Sorrento wind tease his nipples just so.
In the adjacent room most mornings is Ida, the buoyant mother of the bride. She's portrayed by Trine Dyrholm, a Danish Helen-Mirren-Meryl-Streep-hybrid who's softer than either around the edges. Ida is a hairdresser fresh off her final chemo session. The film opens, in fact, with a physician's consult in Copenhagen in which breast reconstruction is the order of the day. Ida returns home to discover that her loutish husband Leif has been cheating on her with a parodically slutty younger woman — Tilde, from accounting — and she skedaddles to Italy, frazzled and solo.
Having introduced our downtrodden fiftysomethings, Love is All You Need then charts a familiar course during which just about every character needs a lot more than love. The wedding turns out to be disastrously ill-conceived. Patrick and Astrid, eager hatchlings both, courted for only three months (!) before their costly nuptials.
The buffoonish Leif opts to bring Tilde to the festivities, and Phillip's delusional sister-in-law Benedikte is convinced he's always been crazy about her. (Phillip's dismissal of her is honest-to-God one of the cruelest things you'll ever see.) But amidst the clutter and conflict of a very busy two days, Ida's eternal (and frankly bewildering) optimism softens Phillip, wins his affection...and the rest is formula.
The film is a real tonal mixed bag. Among the cheerful subjects in its purview: cancer, infidelity, homosexuality, grief, finance. The Danish filmmakers seem to think that by transporting an otherwise very heavy story to Italy and playing Dean Martin's "That's Amore" no-joke close to 50 times, it becomes substantively changed.
Which it doesn't. And that's fine, so long as the marketing materials don't so closely resemble Mamma Mia. Both Dyrholm and Brosnan are strong, though their scenes as parents are considerably more graceful than their scenes as would-be lovers.
There are a few distractions and logistical inconsistencies in the script—which, in fairness, likely only bother a certain sort of person—and Phillip's inability to speak Danish makes for sloppy interactions most of the time, but there's some quality stuff here, some tenderness and heart. In truth, it's got all the ingredients of one of those event-based, merrily claustrophobic rom-coms, except—notably—laughs.