Pierce Brosnan, Trine Dyrholm, and Director Susanne Bier on Love Is All You Need
Love Is All You Need At Any Age
May 02, 2013
Susanne Bier is a filmmaker who knows her way around a dramatic situation. Her last film, In a Better World, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, a category that historically rewards a heavier tone. Before that was Brothers, the thematically dense film about familial tension during wartime, famously remade starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman. For her most recent film, the Danish director wanted to stick with the seriousness of her past work but infuse a slightly lighter tone. What better way than with a romantic comedy?
"I definitely thought: if I'm to make a romantic comedy I don't want to make it about two 20-year-olds who are great-looking and have great friends and great pasts and great jobs and nice apartments-where all they have to do is meet one another," says Bier. "Quite frankly, I have a hard time really seriously engaging with those films."
The apt title of Bier's newest film is Love Is All You Need, an emphatic declaration that fulfills its promises from the sumptuously shot opening frames. Ida (a sensational Trine Dyrholm) is a woman with a new lease on life. Recently finishing a round of chemotherapy for breast cancer, she is given an optimistic diagnosis from her doctor. Statuesque and with an incredibly warm affect, Ida returns home to find her husband having sex with a girl their daughter's age. It's a lot to process in a single day.
To prepare for the role, Dyrholm used a technique she developed years ago, before the first time she worked with Bier on In a Better World: "The 'emotional bank' is where I write inner monologues for myself so I can feed on the part," she says.
This all happens shortly before a trip to Italy for her daughter's wedding, no less. Flustered and flying solo for the first time in a long time, Ida literally runs into a man with her car at the airport. The man is justifiably angry, only it turns out that they're both going to Italy for the same reason. Philip (a dashing-as-ever Pierce Brosnan) is the groom's father. Romantic comedy hijinks commence.
Similar to Mamma Mia, it becomes clear pretty quickly that the children's wedding is but a mere pretense for adult playtime. But in true Bier fashion, the characters here are emotionally rich and engaging. Philip is a workaholic, emotionally cold man, while Ida, though with an entirely different demeanor, is going through her own mid-life crisis. It's not often we see this genre tackle adult themes and characters so thoughtfully.
"I felt like if I was going to do this I wanted to have people who felt like they'd really earned it," Bier plainly states, "and that we'd really be longing for them to somehow get a break in their life. It wasn't as much about age as somehow having an amount of pain."
Sequestered in a ridiculously beautiful Italian seaside villa, Ida and Philip slowly get to know one another, becoming increasingly optimistic yet never quite letting their guard down. They dance a slow flirtatious dance throughout the film, but there's a deliciously slow burn of anticipation that builds between the two that transcends the wham-bam payoff of most romantic comedies. It speaks to Bier's nuanced melodrama as much as the actors' sensitivity to the material.
"Like many others, I have people very close to me who have had cancer, and so I know a lot about it," Dyrholm says melancholically. Brosnan echoes these personal sentiments. "I talk often about the loss of my wife Cassandra, and the endurance of going through [that] and losing her to ovarian cancer. I knew something about that loss, and so this script is finding me at the right time in my life to have enough distance and courage to surrender and be able to play this kind of role."
For both the characters and the actors, these particular life experiences are the kind of immutable realities that drive a thoughtful drama. But the film never gets weighed down in maudlin weepiness. This is a romantic comedy, after all. Even though it's about a woman with cancer, there's an exciting comfort in knowing how things will turn out.
Of the film's comedic openness, Bier remains confident in her choice. "It has a consciously lighter tone because it deals with cancer. We really did not want to make a heavy-handed, very serious movie."
Love is the type of foreign film that deserves a much wider audience. It has the feel-good vibe of last year's French juggernaut The Intouchables. Brosnan and Dyrholm possess that all-too-rare palpable chemistry that drives the best entries in the genre.
"A certain alchemy comes into the day's play when things go well—as they did here," Brosnan confidently proclaims. His views are well measured.
[Love Is All You Need opens this Friday, May 3rd.]