It's All About Love

on October 29, 2004 by Annlee Ellingson
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For his romantic thriller “It's All About Love,” writer/director Thomas Vinterberg, one of the founders of Dogme school of filmmaking, has invented a fascinating futuristic world that is ultimately more interesting than the central plot. It is the summer of 2021, and environmental neglect has resulted in flash freezes--it snows in New York during the otherwise hottest month of the year, and freshwater freezes instantly in glasses and pipes for a period of two minutes--and unexplained losses of gravity, a phenomenon for now limited to the country of Uganda. More troubling are the bodies that are piling up in the city streets; the hearts of the sad and lonely simply stop beating in their chests.

Against this backdrop, John Marczewski (Joaquin Phoenix, with a clumsy Polish accent) is swinging through the Big Apple to finalize his divorce from his wife Elena (Claire Danes, ditto the accent), a professional ice skater. The political intrigue kicks off right away, as John is met at the airport by a cagey pair who insist he return with them to Elena's hotel, and that she will sign the papers there. Although he is greeted by her sizeable entourage warmly all around, John gradually becomes aware that all is not well with his estranged wife and eventually unearths a nefarious business plan to keep her skating--and generating money--even as she ages past her prime. With the help of those still faithful to her, even as they are betrayed by whom she thought her closest ally, John and Elena plan a daring escape that ends tragically but also bafflingly.

Meanwhile, the film occasionally cuts away to John's brother Marciello (Sean Penn), who, due to an overdose of a prescription meant to help him deal with his fear of flying, can no longer not fly. Like the climax of the film, these segments, while serving as the thematic titular thread throughout the film, produce a reaction along the lines of “Wha?!?”

The atmosphere throughout “It's All About Love” is opulent--rich in color and shadow--and ominous, the mood enhanced by a soundtrack that includes a soprano a cappella voice, slightly off-key. It's an ambiance furthered by the background radio and television newscasts continually reporting on the escalating body count, environmental anomalies and flying Ugandans--incidents that one wishes the film would cut away to permanently. Starring Claire Danes and Joaquin Phoenix. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg. Written by Mogens Rukov and Thomas Vinterberg. Produced by Birgitte Hald. No distributor set. Romantic thriller. Not yet rated. Running time: 104 min

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