Love Is All You Need
Susanne Bier is a highly-esteemed Danish director (the Oscar-winning In a Better World, Brothers, After the Wedding) who is adept at portraying family drama in all its complexity, joy and pain.
In an unusual sidestep into darkish comedy, Bier pits an English-speaking Pierce Brosnan against Trine Dyrholm (who, like most Danes, speaks excellent English but here the cast mostly respond to Brosnan’s Philip in their mother tongue). Philip’s son is marrying Ida’s daughter, so both extended families jet off to Sorrento on Italy’s Amalfi coast, to fall in and out of love.
The resulting story is as strange a mix of tones as its multi-lingual cast. Over-colourised cinematography and bittersweet slapstick comedy clashes with realistically-portrayed relationship angst. Ida is battling problems at home and in health, yet meaningful conversations that might uncover real feeling are frequently undermined by the jaunty accordion soundtrack. Philip is an overworked businessman with his own demons, and Brosnan seems ill at ease in both his character and his surrounds.
Set a film in Italy, however, cast a few local extras (including a cameo from Gomorrah‘s Ciro Petrone), and explore human behaviour at a large family gathering, and there is still much to enjoy. Auntie Benedikte (a superb Paprika Steen), despite being too obviously signposted as the nightmare relative, delivers some cracking lines and keeps things moving.
But despite the stunning Italian backdrop, a talented cast and several engaging threads in the storyline, the film still hits some off-notes which undermine its potential as a meaty family drama.