Starting off your movie with a round of Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore” is never promising, especially when the story features broken-hearted northern Europeans reconnecting with love down in sunny Italy. To be sure, Susanne Bier’s romance comes slathered in a certain kind of schmaltz. But she holds back at certain key moments, keeping her film from turning into the kind of full-throttle, love-sick, Chianti-drunk spectacle that might be expected at the first sight of the blushing young bride and groom first entering the grand old Italian villa where they are to be married.
The more uptight of the two old northerners whose hearts are destined to be melted is Philip (Pierce Brosnan), a successful English food importer working in Denmark. His son Patrick (Sebastian Jessen) is the nervous young man engaged to confident willowy Danish blonde Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind). The dusty villa where the nuptials are planned was once Philip and Patrick’s home, but nobody has lived their for years since Philip’s wife died. Nursing a much fresher broken heart is Astrid’s motherIda (the superb Trine Dyrholm, from Bier’s In a Better World), who discovers at the outset that her husband (whom she has just finished declaring “likes me the way I am”) is cheating on her with a younger woman.
Melting down emotionally, Ida meets-cute with Philip by smashing into his car while they’re both on their way to the airport for the wedding. Since Philip is the kind of character always seen at the start of a movie exhibiting no human characteristics — he practically snarls when his employees throw him a surprise party — and Ida is churning vulnerably through a midlife crisis, it’s fairly inevitable that not long after they start luxuriating by the Mediterranean, love will bloom like the lemons in the groves surrounding the villa.
Bier and her frequent cowriter Anders Thomas Jensen engineer a few crafty tricks to keep the inevitable from being quite that obvious for a good part of the film’s run. The tensions in Patrick and Astrid’s quick engagement provide some distraction, as does the luscious Sorrento scenery (shot with a careful beauty by Frederick Elmes, who comes to the brink of pushing things into kitsch, just like Bier). In the meantime, we’re left with the acting, which outranks the material throughout. Brosnan does what is required of gracefully graying idols like him, striding through as though modeling some line of casual clothing for Type-A millionaires, tight-jawed and grim but never without opened shirts showing always the same amount of hairy chest. Dyrholm plays older than she is, delivering an emotional exhaustion that has suddenly and surprisingly overwhelmed a woman used to reflexive optimism.
Love Is All You Need does its best to overwhelm audiences as well. Bier builds her story carefully through some highly expected complications, dusting it with some social-embarrassment comedy, and then unfurling the story into a grandiose romance with deeply-buried secrets and soul-stirring declarations of love. It fits together unsurprisingly but not insultingly at the end; almost well enough to make up for “That’s Amore.”