After visiting the doctor for the latest news on her cancer treatment, hairdresser Trine Dyrholm returns home to find her husband (Kim Bodnia) shtupping his office accountant. (“I thought you were at chemo,” he offers by way of an apology.) Elsewhere in Copenhagen, expat widower Pierce Brosnan declines a dance date with a colleague, telling her he’s twirled his last tango. Can this embittered duo learn to love again? The pair meets cute in a parking-garage fender bender, only to learn that—surprise!—they’re both en route to Sorrento, Italy, where their respective children plan to marry. As movies have taught us before (and no doubt will again), a little Mediterranean sunshine and a few plucks of soundtrack mandolin go a long way toward healing heartache.
The premise and setting owe a debt to Billy Wilder’s Avanti! (1972), in which Jack Lemmon and Juliet Mills travel to Italy for their parents’ funerals, then oh-so-gradually fall into a romance. But as Brosnan and Dyrholm settle into his waterfront home for a weekend of ensemble wedding antics, Love Is All You Need quickly turns into a parody of middlebrow art cinema: Italian For Beginners At The Best Exotic Amalfi Villa. Director Susanne Bier (In A Better World, Things We Lost In The Fire) and frequent story collaborator Anders Thomas Jensen are not known for their subtle character shading, but this time the central courtship must be taken on faith. The impossibly suave Brosnan looks at Dyrholm as if admiring himself in the mirror, while subplots involving his wife’s evil sister (Paprika Steen) and Bodnia turning up with the aforementioned mistress are rife with easy potshots. And if you’re wondering why the parents of the bride and groom haven’t met before, it’s because their kids have only courted for three months. Three guesses as to why that might be; the least contrived two don’t count.
Cast with winning actors (particularly Molly Blixt Egelind as Dyrholm’s daughter) who seem determined not to distract viewers from the coastal backdrops, Love Is All You Need proceeds in all the expected directions short of actually including The Beatles. (It substitutes endless airings of “That’s Amore.”) Love may or may not be all you need, but a film needs more than a relentless eagerness to please.