Every romantic comedy has its Meet Cute. I won't soon forget the one in Love Is All You Need. It's actually more of a Meet Awkward. The leads' first encounter is funny, moving and well observed, like the rest of this very good Danish film. It was directed by Susanne Bier, who made the Oscar-winning thriller In a Better World.
Ida (Trine Dyrholm) is in an airport parking garage. She pulls into a handicapped space. She has just completed cancer treatment, and you can see her wondering: Should I use a handicapped space? She starts backing out -- and hits the vehicle driven by Philip (Pierce Brosnan). He screams. She panics and does something that makes no sense, and that feels completely right: She floors it. Her car crashes into a wall.
It's a messy, chaotic beginning for this pair. That's appropriate, because their lives already are messy and chaotic. Ida has been ill, and her husband is a philanderer. Philip, an angry workaholic, never recovered from his wife's accidental death.
At the airport, Ida and Philip discover that they are traveling to the same destination: his stunning Italian villa, where their children (Sebastian Jessen, Molly Blixt Egelind) are getting married. Much of Love Is All You Need deals with the preparations for the nuptials, and in that regard the film resembles wedding movies like Rachel Getting Married.
But the focus turns out to be the older couple and their midlife concerns, which is gratifying. These are complicated people, and I am moved by Dyrholm and Brosnan's performances. I worried about Philip's brittleness, which at first made me think of some underwritten sitcom character. But his anger makes sense in light of his unhappy past, which we learn about in stages. This is a fine performance by Brosnan, sensitive and charming.
Then there is Dyrholm, a revelation as Ida. She finds remarkable notes of tenderness and subtle humor in playing this sad woman. Throughout much of the film she is bald because of her cancer treatment, and I admire the frankness with which the disease is portrayed.
At times Love Is All You Need feels busy, and there may be a few characters too many. I could use less of Benedikte (Paprika Steen), Philip's sister-in-law. She emerges as a rather monstrous snob and a heartless mother, a regrettably one-sided character in an otherwise nuanced film.
I might even have trimmed some scenes relating to the bridal couple, whose problems seem less momentous than their parents'. True, there is an interesting plot thread relating to them that involves a same-sex dalliance. This is handled so sensitively that in Vladimir Putin's Russia the film doubtless will be suppressed as dangerous propaganda.