Love is All You Need is a gem of a movie. On the one hand it would seem to be a deceptively simple rom com but there’s a lot more going on. For starters, the film also deals with the repercussions of someone having to deal with cancer. Now, in theory that should be a hard fit to squeeze into a rom com. However the film deftly pulls off this difficult juxtaposition without ever veering into sentimentality.
It’s an extremely well written movie from the off, wonderfully acted and peopled with a marvellous array of characters. First of all there is Ida, the heroine of the movie who, despite recovering from cancer, still finds a simple joy in life. She clearly has a great relationship with both her children, and like quite a few wonderful women I know has a penchant for tying her lot with a man who clearly doesn’t deserve her. In her relationship with her husband, Leif, the film raises that eternal question: why do lovely women sometimes have such twats as men in their lives. During the course of the film however it looks as if her love life might take a turn for the better as her would-be suitor is in the form of Pierce Brosnan. Before meeting Ida, his character Philip has cut himself off emotionally from the world, love, his own feelings and even from his own son. Having lost his wife in an unfortunate accident years ago, he is still hurting and takes it out by hating the world and finding refuge in overworking.
His sister-in-law – the evil stepmother of the tale – is Benedikte. In this film she is the aunt/mother/femme fatale from hell. She is so gloriously awful you just know she must have been based on someone the scriptwriter actually knows. Incredibly selfish and egocentric, it is no wonder her daughter self-harms though you do find yourself asking why the daughter hasn’t gone the whole hog, and harmed her own mother instead. The speech Benedikte gives on the eve of the wedding is hysterical in its awfulness; as is her portrayal of the way some women insist on deluding themselves into believing someone has feelings for them despite all blatant signs to the contrary.
In this the film’s depiction of human foibles is acutely well-observed and thankfully the depiction of human foibles is not confined to just the one sex. The husband Leif is a key example of the insensitivity of some men. Not satisfied with cheating on Ida while he thought she was at chemo, he then goes and brings his bit on the side to his own daughter’s wedding, indifferent to how his wife and daughter might feel about it. Last but not least, one of the most important characters in the film is the southern Italian backdrop where most of the film is set. It permeates the film and is perhaps a metaphor for the happiness that we can attain if we are only brave enough to go looking for it and allowing it in.
I read years ago that the great film director Ernst Lubitsch’s theory about film making was that it was the director’s job to do the sum i.e. 2×2 and for the audience to work out the rest. And this film is a perfect example of this adage. The ending is glorious in its ambiguity. The film seems to be saying that irrelevant of whether Ida is cured or not, the crux of the matter is that Ida and Philip have found each other and along with it, happiness. As you never know what life may throw at you, we should enjoy what we have while it lasts and be grateful that it came our way in the first place.
Philip’s speech to Ida in the final scene had me in tears. Surely this is the mark of any good rom com. Moreover, the film also seems to imply that it’s never too late, and you never know when you could turn a corner and find love and happiness standing there. (Hopefully in the shape of Pierce Brosnan and/or George Clooney. I’m not fussy.) For someone of my advanced years that is a rather reassuring message. I may be booking that holiday to the Amalfi coast sometime soon!