You can tell from the dopey title — “Love Is All You Need” — that this is going to be one of those treacly, predictable, feel-good movies. The plot: rich, grouchy widower meets wide-eyed hairdresser with a heart of gold. He appears to have permanent dyspepsia. She has cancer.
“Casablanca” it isn’t.
What’s interesting is that as the world’s demographics change, America has finally decided to acknowledge an aging population and make films for people over 16. But this is a Danish film, and Europe has always been ahead of us in recognizing that not every film has to cater to teenage boys and pre-pubescent girls.
The stars in this one are the gorgeous but wooden Pierce Brosnan and Danish actress Trine Dyrholm, who is lovely if you can get past her ridiculously over-curled false eyelashes. Of course, they meet cute: she rams into his car in the airport garage and he has a very convincing hissy fit. They are both on their way to Italy, where his son is marrying her daughter.
It’s a very thin plot, but pleasant enough. With some beautiful photography of Sorrento, charming old winding streets, a blue seashore, and a villa that the wedding party stays in. (Strangely, without any servants to clean or cook for them, it appears.)
Much of the scenery is motionless and devoid of people, however, and you get the feeling that it was shot with a green screen and picture postcards were added afterwards.
The love story seems to have been shot with a green screen as well, since there’s not much energy or heat in the romance and Brosnan asks Dyrholm to come live with him in Italy without suggesting marriage or even mentioning love. And he doesn’t kiss her until nearly the end of the movie.
Must be a Danish thing.
Mention must be made of Brosnan’s obnoxious, brassy sister-in-law. You wait for his patience to snap, and when it does he delivers a tirade that everyone would wish they had the courage to deliver to their own nemesis. Not very believable, but oddly satisfying nevertheless.
The annoying sister-in-law is played by an actress named Paprika Steen. The name says it all.
Other names that had a role in this silly romantic comedy are Susanne Bier, who wrote the story with Anders Thomas Jensen and directed the film. According to the information released by Sony Pictures Classics, which will be distributing the film when it is released in the U.S. this month, it was an official selection for the 2012 Venice Film Festival, but was taken out of competition. It was also entered in the Toronto International Film Festival.
I don’t think it will be winning any awards.
A void in Tel Aviv
She has been rejected by the match her parents were trying to make. He is newly widowed. A perfect match to fill the void? Well, not quite. She is a dewy-eyed 18-year old. He is the 30-something husband of her recently deceased sister.
“Fill the Void” is an Israeli film that delves into the lives of a community of Hasidic Jews in Tel Aviv: their customs, their obligations and their perceived mishigoss.
It’s a beautiful film, but rendered in its entirety without explanation or rationale. The lifestyle is loving, but the obligations are overwhelming. Shira, (Hadas Yaron) the bewildered young heroine, is being manipulated by her mother to marry Yochay (Yiftach Klein) so that he will not move to Belgium to marry the widow he has been “offered” there.
It’s not that he isn’t a good man, and a handsome one. He is both. But the mother’s motivation is the baby boy her older daughter had died giving birth to. If Yochay goes to Belgium, so will the baby, Mordechay.
Eventually Yochay is persuaded to woo Shira, which he does tentatively, noting that she is “not a little girl any longer” and that she is “quite pretty.” This is not a very passionate approach, and Shira, understandably, remains unconvinced.
In a heartbreaking scene she questions him about his love for her sister and the joy and wonder of experiencing love for the first time, adding, “You are depriving me of that.”
Rama Burshtein, who wrote and directed the film, makes very clear that marriages are never forced in the Orthodox community, but there can be not very subtle pressure on the young girl being “offered” for marriage. And on the young man as well. It appears that everyone has a say in the match.
Burshtein tells her story without prejudice or judgment. She obviously hopes that her audience will view it in the same way, but that’s extremely difficult to do, even though the principals are presented with sweetness and grace. Soft lighting, slow pacing, and elegant photography are also part of the mix, but nevertheless, this is a hard premise for an “emancipated” secular American to find acceptable.
“Fill the Void” was Israel’s official entry at the Toronto International Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival in 2012, where Hadas Yaron won the Best Actress Award. The film is scheduled to open in America shortly.
Cynthia Citron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.