“Love Is All You Need” – and pain is what you get…

I decided to start working my way through my review backlog (4 films in 4 days – that doesn’t happen too often, but I have to embrace the free time when I have it) and there’s no better way than from the bottom up. Otherwise I might forget things I wanted to say and then I would probably remember when it’s all out there and I wouldn’t be bothered to go and change everything… Anyway… Feeling rambly tonight… Fantastic…

Even though I had been planning for days to go and watch “Evil Dead” that Sunday, I ended up doing something completely different. Not to worry, because I actually managed to catch up with Fede Alvarez on Tuesday. Anyhow, it so happened that My Lovely Wife and I decided to use the precious time we have together, which hasn’t been happening all that often, and head out. So, the weather was mediocre to say the least – Belfast is not exactly in Hawaii, and we ended up in the cinema – obviously. I have to say that a brief thought of trying to convince her to see “Evil Dead” has crossed my mind, but it wouldn’t have been very smart. After all, pregnant ladies might not react all too well to that kind of entertainment and I think coercing your expecting partner to sit through something like that might just be punishable by law.

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So, there… It was a date, than the movie needed to suit the occasion. And now that I’m writing this, I honestly believe that “Love is all you need” fits perfectly in the ‘date movie’ niche. Say what you want, but appearances might be deceiving and contrary to what the trailer suggests – it’s not a ‘rom com’. Well, maybe it is, but not in the classical sense. One simple reason – it’s not made in Hollywood.

“Love is all you need” is a delightful story directed by Susanne Bier, an Oscar-winning film maker (“In a Better World”, Foreign Language Film, 2011) who also keeps bagging awards all around the world every time she comes up with something. And I didn’t know that when I was watching her latest creation. If, like me, you end up watching this film in complete ignorance, you’re in for a really good ride, because what looks like a run-of-the-mill rom-com, quickly turns out to be something much better than that.

The film tells a story of Ida (Trine Dyrholm) – a middle-aged woman who seems to have been walking uphill throughout her whole life. She’s got two adult children (one of whom is getting married in Italy in just a few days), a difficult marriage, a low-paying job, a small house and cancer, which she’s been trying to beat whilst juggling everything else. When she finally looks as though she was about to come out on top – even with the fact that the cancer has taken a terrible toll on her body – nothing in her life is about to go back to normal. Nothing can be as uplifting as walking in on your own spouse banging his foxy assistant on the couch you used to spend your evenings together, just about when you’re about to break the news to him on your recovery. But that’s life and things like that happen all the time, apparently. There’s nothing really one can say in a situation like this, especially when the unfaithful hubby is desperately trying to explain himself by blaming Ida’s cancer for everything – nice touch.

 

There’s nothing one can do really, so Ida simply walked out the door and decided to join her daughter in Italy a bit earlier. On her way she bumps into (quite literally, with her car at the airport) into Philip (Pierce Brosnan), an obnoxious businessman who turns out to be attending the same wedding, as he is the father of the groom. Add to that Ida’s lowlife husband rolling up with his dumber-than-a-bag-of-rocks assistant, Philip’s painfully annoying sister-in-law with a douchy teenage daughter, premarital second thoughts, painful secrets, weirdly affectionate Italian caterers, a couple of mishaps, loads of alcohol – all in a confined space of a neglected Italian villa – and you have a disaster waiting to happen. But before it does, you get to enjoy the phenomenal scenery and the romantic atmosphere of the Italian ways, captured perfectly on camera.

That’s right. Two paragraphs it took me to try and wrap “Love is all you need” in gift paper and it still looks incoherent – and that’s a polite way of putting it. Maybe it’s just the fact that European Love Stories are always awkwardly complicated. Even though “Love is all you need” is a comedy, it doesn’t feel like one and that’s definitely a good thing. There’s no room for the touchy-feely American rom-com nonsense. The love in here is gritty, unpleasant, uncomfortable and painful. And although there is a silver lining to all this, “Love is all you need” projects an overbearing aroma of uneasiness with its story. I was taken by surprise by Susanne Bier, because I somehow anticipated a Danish attempt at a Hollywoodized love story. In its stead I received a rather honest film about how life is sometimes difficult to wrap your head around, how we spend our lives lying to ourselves that love is supposed to be difficult and painful, and how hopeless we are in thinking that we can just clench our teeth, pretend it’s just fine and wait for the end of our days.

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