It's rare to find a romance that's actually based on such vivid characters as these, but then this is from Oscar-winning filmmaker Susanne Bier (In a Better World), who knows how to root films in people rather than plot structure. And even more important: this is a romance about middle-aged people we can genuinely engage with, as they have been beaten down by life and are in need of a fresh start.
It starts in Copenhagen, where hairdresser Ida (Dyrholm) has just finished cancer treatment when she discovers that her husband Leif (Bodnia) is sleeping with a young airhead (Schaumburg-Miller). Now she has to pack her son (Hansen) off to war before heading to Italy for the marriage of daughter Astrid (Egelind) to her boyfriend Patrick (Jessen). Then at the airport, Ida has an unlucky run-in with Patrick's tetchy father Philip (Brosnan), who has focussed only on his work since his wife died. And even as Ida catches his eye, he has to fend off the advances of his lovelorn sister-in-law Benedikte (Steen).
With a group of people gathering for a wedding on an idyllic Mediterranean island, the plot may seem like Mamma Mia without the music. But there are surprising details in the characters as the farce develops, and only a couple of the plot-lines get silly. The central love story is actually remarkably sweet, using Ida's and Philip's troubled histories to make their interaction both snappier and more deeply emotional than we expect. And Bier, working with her usual screenwriter Jensen, are free to let other narrative strands come and go around them.
Continue reading: Love Is All You Need Review
When Ida, a Danish hairdresser who is recuperating after a series of chemotherapy treatments walks in on her husband cheating on her with a very young colleague from the accounts department at work, she finds her life in tatters. She resolves to travel alone to Italy where her daughter Astrid is set to wed her fiancé Patrick but on the way she meets the angry and aloof Philip who is also living in Denmark and who has become more and more annoyed at the world since his wife passed away. He turns out to be the father of the groom and they are forced to spend time together despite meeting on bad terms. Philip is humbled when he returns to the Italian villa in which he used to live with his wife but other conflicts are cropping up elsewhere even between the bride and groom. However, it isn't long before Philip and Ida start enjoying each other's company and they start to contemplate moving on with their lives.
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Director-cowriter Sachs takes an unusually intimate look at a 10-year relationship in this beautifully shot and performed New York drama. The film has been compared to 2011's British break-out hit Weekend, but only partly because it centres on a gay couple. What makes both films notable is the way they tackle serious issues in the context of a relationship, keeping the focus tightly on complex characters who behave like real people we can identify with.
The story starts in 1998 New York, as aspiring Danish documentary filmmaker Erik (Lindhardt) fails to overcome his loneliness by using chat-lines to meet random strangers for sex. Then he meets the lawyer Paul (Booth), and their encounter evolves into a relationship. Over the next decade, Paul is frustrated by Erik's casual approach to his slow-developing career, while Erik becomes increasingly worried about Paul's casual drug use. As this boils over into full-on addiction, Erik turns to his sister (Steen) and his close friend Claire (Nicholson) for help with an intervention. But are drugs the real problem? And even if Paul goes through rehab, can their relationship survive?
Intriguingly, Sachs never lets this turn into a drug-addiction drama, carefully exploring much deeper issues without ever being preachy about it. Everything is presented as matter-of-fact, just part of life, and even the addiction problem is only an obstacle for Erik and Paul to deal with in their life together. Both Lindhardt and Booth bring a stunning transparency to their roles, keeping the characters likeable even when they do awful things to each other. Since we see everything through Erik's eyes, Lindhardt's role is much beefier, and it's also infused with his European sense of humour.
Continue reading: Keep the Lights On Review
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