Year Released: 2013
Directed by: Susanne Bier
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Trine Dyrholm
(R, 110 min.)
“Love doesn’t make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” Franklin P. Jones
This is a romance for grownups. It is not fueled by hormones, fast cars, or booze. Time does not stand still. Instead our own mortality waits quietly in the wings, its presence alone urging us on.
Sure, our film has all the old Rom Com trademarks. The awkward first meeting, the initial fireworks between two very different types, the assortment of clueless friends and relatives, and the ultimate expectation that we know our awkward couple will end up in love.
But somehow, in the hands of veteran Danish director Susanne Bier, who also co-wrote the script, all that convention fades into the woodwork because the leads imbue their characters with such authenticity.
Pierce Brosnan is Philip, an English widower who has sealed off his emotional core since the death of his wife. Brosnan plays him with just the right note of icy reserve tempered by ragged remnants of wit, manners, and soul. His large company is based in Denmark, and Philip spends his time behind its linear glass and steel walls contemplating the latest price of radishes. That's what he deals in – not just radishes, but the sale of all kinds of produce throughout Europe. But it is certainly no mistake that the script calls for Philip’s concern to be the radish rather than a more ripe and luxuriant plum. Because that unheralded vegetable, which barely makes the supporting cast in a salad, echoes the state of Philip’s soul – tart, sharp, and almost bitter.
Ida (Trine Dyrholm) loves lemons, also tart. And she can be tart, too, but only when that reaction is called for, such as finding her husband cheating on her on the living room couch, his excuse being that she has returned early from her latest chemo treatment.
She is none too timid when Philip launches a tirade of abuse at her for backing up into his shiny vehicle at the airport car park. In fact, as they share a ride together to what turns out to be the Italian wedding of her daughter Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) to his son Patrick (Sebastian Jessen), she lets him have it with both barrels. Why would anyone work for someone who is so arrogant and insulting, she wonders out loud. “I pay them very well,” is his succinct reply, which tells us quite a bit about Philip’s narrow outlook.
But in his own begrudging way, Philip respects her audacity. Maybe even suspects it is the bad tasting medicine his malnourished soul needs. And he also sees Ida’s strength of character when she faces an unexpected wedding guest on the arm of her late arriving spouse, the very same nubile “girl from accounting” she has recently witnessed cavorting with her husband in their living room.. After a brief reaction, she masks her hurt and puts on a ready smile as easily as the blond wig that hides her chemo-bald head. Ida will not distract from her daughter’s happy day.
Ida, humble housewife and hairdresser, has long known that the world does not revolve around her. That view is contrasted by the outrageous selfishness of several others. Leif (Kim Bodnia), her unfaithful spouse, rebuts Ida’s outrage over his infidelity during her illness, using it as his excuse. Seeing her go through so much has been very hard on him, he tells her without blinking an eye.
Philip, too, has a bad seed in his family in the form of his sister-in-law, who uses a wedding toast to salute Philip instead of the couple. Yet even that awkward moment gives way to a worse one – a tipsy tribute to Philip helping her go through the trauma of dealing with her formerly obese daughter now seated next to her. “Little Fatty,” she affectionately calls her, just before relating Philip’s further needed support when the girl turned to “cutting herself.” No wonder the poor child drinks herself sick that night, her worried mum coaching her on to vomit with the admonition that she might as well learn how now, since she will need that skill to counteract all the food she takes in.
We can laugh at these two, having known others who rival their self-absorption. And we look away in relief to Ida and Philip.
Their romance is awkward and tentative, fueled by an almost clumsy innocence that recounts adolescence. But it is tempered with a tenderness and maturity that looks beyond the surface realities, past battered bodies, lost souls, and uncertain futures to an inner core of goodness that radiates in a way even youth can never equal.
Philip and Ida walk together. The beautiful Italian villa wedding site, its warm stucco walls and arched hallways overlooking the sea, creates a perfect backdrop for romance. The scent of lemon blossoms fills the air with promise. Nothing can dampen the mood, not even Philip pausing to examine a diseased tree and the lethal ants and fungus attacking it.
Let's go past that tree and find some healthy lemons for our Italian delight: Butter Lemon Chicken. Delicious with just a hint of tartness, just like our delightful couple.
Italian Lemon Butter Chicken
Lemon Butter Sauce:
1/4 cup white wine
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup butter, chilled
salt and pepper to taste
Chicken and Pasta:
1/2 pound dry farfalle (bow tie) pasta
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - pounded to 1/4 inch thick
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces bacon
6 ounces mushrooms, sliced
6 ounces artichoke hearts, drained and halved
2 teaspoons capers, drained
chopped fresh parsley for garnish
To make the sauce, pour the wine and lemon juice into a saucepan over medium heat. Cook at a low boil until the liquid is reduced by 1/3. Stir in cream, and simmer until it thickens. Gradually add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time to the sauce, stirring until completely incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, and keep warm.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, and set aside.
To make the chicken, heat oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. In a bowl, stir together flour, salt, and pepper. Lightly coat chicken with flour mixture. Without crowding, carefully place chicken in hot oil. (If necessary, cook in batches.) Fry until cooked through and golden brown on both sides. Remove the chicken to paper towels. Stir the bacon, mushrooms, artichokes, and capers into the oil; cook until the mushrooms are soft.
Cut the chicken breasts into bite-size strips, and return them to the skillet. Stir half of the lemon butter sauce into the chicken mixture.
To serve, place pasta in a large bowl. Stir the chicken mixture into the pasta. Taste, and adjust seasonings. Stir in additional lemon butter sauce as desired. Toss well, and garnish with parsley.