Love is All (2015)

February 10th, 2015
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director: Kim Longinotto

In order to borrow the title of the Beatles song, All you need is Love, for her latest documentary, LOVE IS ALL, Kim Longinotto needed a lot more ‘tough’ love to make the project really succeed. This is a 70 minute collage of British social history concerned with our attitudes to love, dating and marriage. On paper it sounded fascinating. In practice it’s only intermittently so. Longinotto has said “the film explores love in a playful way.” Yet along with her kindly British/Yorkshire perspective of the sometimes pained joy of love, the ‘play’ needed to have a bit more edge.

LOVE IS ALL is a journey through the BFI and Yorkshire film archive. From the 1889 Kiss in a Tunnel (‘naughty’ straight couple kissing in a train carriage) right through to 2014’s Islington Wedding (one of the first gay marriages being applauded by an excited crowd), the most memorable clips are the most dramatic. A voyeuristic man spies, with binoculars on an amorous couple in the park. That’s in Peeping Tom (1905). The conflict between a mother and daughter over boyfriends in the 1927 silent Hindle Wakes. A public information film Don’t be like Brenda (1973), about an unwanted pregnancy. And,most strikingly, a tinted sequence from Piccadilly (1929) starring the exuberantly sexy Chinese actress Anna Mae Wong. Three great clips to die for, but not so the complete film. For Love is All is often in danger of losing itself in the generality of its big theme of LOVE.No commentary is supplied. Dialogue is minimal so music has to do the job. The songs are delivered by Richard Hawley and are ‘easy listening’ and tediously middle of the road; bland but inoffensive. His music never convincingly gelled with the image. Hawley’s folksy crooner voice tended to drift over the footage in a disembodied way. He wasn’t helped by lyrics that were too over/or under-romantic to really complement the power of the documentaries, home movies and feature films; avoiding irony and wit: pushing the film into sentimentality, when a genuine romantic affection was required.

None of LOVE IS ALL‘s clips were identified on screen. But maybe a film divided into chapters, with arresting titles, could have been attempted? To the film’s credit it is inclusive (gay experiences and multi-cultural experiences of love play alongside a white/straight view point). But where was the complexity of love? Not enough of love’s difficulties to contrast with its joys. So little was made of the mature love experience. And hardly any sex surfaces – though amongst the few scenes featuring physical aspect of love, the contrast of seduction moments in My Beautiful Launderette worked really well.

LOVE IS ALL is a lightweight pleasant Valentine’s Day card of a film that could have been a lot more passionate and playfully provocative. Alan Price


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