out of Five
Extremely bizarre, vaguely apocalyptic film with some arresting images and a pair of offbeat performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Claire Danes.
It’s All About Love marks the English language debut of Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, who made the Dogme classic Festen. It’s an extremely unusual, oddly unsettling film that will leave you with something to think about, even if that something is “What the HELL was that?”
The film is set in the not-too-distant future. Joaquin Phoenix plays John, a Polish man who we first meet flying into a New York airport in order to divorce his figure-skating wife Elena (Claire Danes) – his voiceover informs us that these are the last few days of his life.
Odd Goings On…
Once he arrives in New York, everything seems a little odd, not least the fact that there are several dead bodies on the streets and everyone just steps blindly over them. When he asks what’s going on, he’s told they are “dying from lack of love”. In addition, the news reports regions that are completely freezing over, as well as the small matter of the African town of UFOs – Ugandan Flying Objects – where gravity just seems to have stopped.
When John meets up with Elena and her team of over-zealous minders and
managers (including Douglas Henshall and Alun Armstrong), he quickly
discovers that she’s the centre of a bizarre conspiracy, the details of
which a) would give away one of the film’s best moments and b) are too
confusing to understand anyway. So he kidnaps her and they go on the run. Meanwhile, John’s brother Marciello (Sean Penn) keeps phoning him from an aeroplane and offering a running commentary on pretty much everything.
It’s All About Love is similar in tone to the work of Wim Wenders (specifically Until The End Of The World) and Julio Medem (Tierra), in that it seems to be both vaguely apocalyptic and also not quite of this planet. It’s both fun to try and figure out what’s going on and frustrating not to be given any clear answers.
Beautifully Shot, Magnificently Weird
That said, it’s beautifully shot by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle and contains some of the most visually arresting images you’ll see all year – particularly the glorious final shot of the Flying Ugandans. The opening shot of the aeroplane descending over a snowy landscape is also
breath-takingly gorgeous to look at.
The acting, in-keeping with the rest of the film, is very strange. Danes and Phoenix make an attractive pair and they both affect oddly Eastern European accents, which is quite unsettling but fits their bizarre, Kafkaesque world. Penn is good value too, despite being confined to a plane for the entire film and the supporting cast (including Mark Strong) are suitably sinister.
In short, It’s All About Love is quite possibly one of the weirdest films of the year. It’s tempting to dismiss it all as a load of old rubbish, but you’ll find it keeps coming back to you all the same. Worth seeing.