It's All About Love

It's All About Love


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

It's all about the heart.

People are dying in the streets. It happens so often no one notices anymore. Bodies lie there, like discarded bin bags.

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The year is 2021 and certain things have changed, but not much. You can smoke on aeroplanes, for example, and yet the hotel still looks like something out of Barton Fink.

Not Elena's room. This is large and full of flowers.

Elena (Claire Danes) is an internationally famous ice skater, protected by a phalanx of minders and dressers, wipers and washers, and a manager (Alun Armstrong) who affects a paternal air, while ruthlessly exploiting his clients.

John (Joaquin Phoenix) arrives in New York, en route to Canada, to meet Elena at the airport, so that she can sign divorce papers. She isn't there. Instead, her people take John to an hotel, where the strange events of the next seven days unfold.

For 85 minutes, the film is rivetting, beautifully photographed and performed with exquisite control by the entire cast - Sean Penn, as usual, is the exception, although, in this case, because his role, as John's absent brother, seems irrelevant - as Danish writer/director Thomas Vinterberg drip feeds tension into a scenario that shows symptoms of deep veined paranoia. After a scene at an out-of-hours ice rink, where something unexpected happens, everything falls apart and the last 20 minutes are desperately seeking closure.

Things are weird, without being crazy. The weather has forgotten the rules - it's the Big Apple, it's June, it's snowing. No one freaks out; they laugh. Meanwhile, in Uganda, gravity has taken leave of its senses and the people have to tie ropes to their ankles or else they fly away.

"I sleep all the time. Seventeen hours a day," Elena says. "I don't want to live any more."

People are dying from lack of love, falling down in the middle of the day. It is a malady of the heart.

John tries to save Elena, but there are other mysteries he can only sense through a gauze of confusion. Who is that woman who looks like Elena, beckoning from the shadows at the end of the corridor? Why does her brother (Douglas Henshall) tell John, "Things aren't what they seem - anymore"?

This is a shivery thriller, made better by a disturbing lack of information. The world may seem the same, but in subtle ways it is more alien. Vinterberg allows the audience to discover, with John, slowly. That, which you do not know, feels the most fearful..

It is sad, finally, to watch the film disintegrate, as if the effort of holding it together became too much. Either that, or the scriptwriters went out for a coffee and never came back.

Reviewed on: 13 Feb 2004
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It's All About Love packshot
An estranged husband attempts to save the life of his wife in New York, 2021.
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Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Writer: Thomas Vinterberg, Mogens Rukov

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes, Douglas Henshall, Alun Armstrong, Sean Penn, Mark Strong, Margo Martindale, Geoffrey Hutchings

Year: 2003

Runtime: 104 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US/Japan/Sweden/UK/Denmark/Germany/Netherlands


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