No romantic comedy would be complete without its protagonists (and destined partners) burdened by personal baggage.
In co-writer and director Susanne Bier’s “Love Is All You Need,” that burden is particularly harsh for midlife characters who have been around the block a few times and barely survived.
Philip (Pierce Brosnan, alternately raw and charming) is a driven businessman who won’t fully face his rage over the death of his wife. Ida (the appealingly enigmatic Trine Dyrholm, star of Bier’s Oscar-winning “In a Better World”), a Copenhagen hairdresser, is recovering from breast cancer when she discovers her husband, Leif (Kim Bodnia), is cheating on her.
Philip and Ida meet as strangers in a whirl of tirade and humiliation, followed by the realization they have something in common: Their grown children are marrying one another on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
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Cut to a gorgeous Mediterranean backdrop, where Philip and Ida weave in and out of each other’s days, their relationship an eye in the storm of family dramas threatening the pending nuptials.
Bier gives herself plenty of light dramedy to play with, including Leif showing up with his new girlfriend; an annoyed Philip hit on (and on and on) by his crass sister-in-law (Paprika Steen); and an engaged couple (Molly Blixt Egelind and Sebastian Jessen) imploding over emerging secrets.
But the real movie is in the behavior of its two leads, the unspoken way Brosnan and Dyrholm visibly size up their unlikely yet growing bond while walking through a lemon grove or sharing quiet talks.
The best scene finds their characters on a shore, where Philip has rushed to warn a nude Ida — one of her breasts visibly altered by surgery — about some sort of danger. Forget modesty. A complete understanding of the moment passes between them: something about loss and change, real and metaphorical scars, boldness and honesty.
Such adult sophistication is Bier’s aim, and she delivers.
Tom Keogh: email@example.com