In the charming Danish import Love Is All You Need, a gay subplot complicates the life of Ida (Trine Dyrholm), a hairdresser suffering through a round of chemotherapy.
Cancer and closeted gay folks aren’t the only things weighing on Ida. Her husband is cheating on her with a bimbo, and her son is off to military service just before her daughter’s wedding. Worst of all, Ida meets Philip (Pierce Brosnan), the father of the groom to her mother of the bride, by running into him … literally. But Love Is All You Need — directed by acclaimed, Oscar-winning Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier — is not so much a tragedy as a romantic parable that recalls Moonstruck, Enchanted April and other relationship comedies with darker themes.
It also marks a 1-2-3 punch for Dyrholm, who last year made an impression as the vicious Queen Juliane Marie in the Oscar-nominated historical drama A Royal Affair and co-starred another acclaimed import in 2010, the Oscar winning foreign language film In a Better World. But Ida is a real change of pace for the actress.
“I’m known [in Denmark] for drama,” she says over sparkling water at the Crescent Court Hotel on a recent visit to Dallas. “That was the big challenge for me, to be in a lighter film.”
Anyone who seethed at her conniving in A Royal Affair and sees her in this, however, will understand why Alec Baldwin once called her the best actress ever.
Although Love Is All You Need is, technically, a foreign language film, subtitles are used with only about half of the dialogue; English is spoken almost as much, and nearly exclusively by Brosnan.
“Yes, Danish sounds like potatoes in your mouth,” Dyrholm laughs. While she (like many Danes) speaks fluent English, Dyrholm worked to make sure Ida didn’t sounds as skilled in communicating with Philip in his native language.
One of the refreshing aspects of Love Is All You Need is how the major (but somewhat unexpected) gay theme is treated so matter-of-factly, and with casual acceptance. It would be hard to imagine a mainstream American rom-com that contains such frank discussions of gay sex while still aspiring to be a box office hit (which Love was in Denmark, where it was known as The Bald Hairdresser.)
Gay subject matter in Danish films “is not controversial,” Dyrholm says of that subplot. “That’s one thing I like about the film — it’s very mainstream.” (LGBT themes are nothing new for Dyrholm, either: In 2006, she starred in the film A Soap, in which she played the romantic interest of a transgender character.) The romantic notion that really hit home for Dyrholm, though, was something entirely different: Playing scenes opposite the still-dashing Brosnan.
“I became most aware of it during a weekend when we had a few days off,” she recalls of her costar. “I found myself on a boat and thought, ‘I’m on a boat with James Bond! I’m like at alternative Bond girl!’”
And Love Is All You Need is an alternative to the predictable Hollywood summer comedy.
Four stars. Opens today at the Angelika Mockingbird Station.