John Lennon: Love Is All You Need promises an intimate look into the life of its subject. By the end of its 82 minute runtime, you'll find yourself still waiting for the film to deliver it.
Comprised heavily of archive footage, with the bulk of the new footage being running commentary from British TV/Radio presenter Paul Gambaccini, Love Is All You Need is extremely light on substance. It plays like an elementary school teacher talking about Christopher Columbus—talking about how awesome he is, while completely ignoring the darker, less savory aspects. Diehard Beatles fans will find absolutely nothing new here, as everything presented here has been covered elsewhere, in much greater detail.
The film chooses to focus on some curious aspects of Lennon's life, and I'm willing to bet it's because of the format. The really interesting parts of Lennon's story—his upbringing, the backstage tension between The Beatles, his difficult relationships with his children and his wives—aren't the kind of thing that were captured on camera first-hand. So, the film will focus on the "Bigger Than Jesus" controversy or Lennon and Yoko Ono's Bed-In protests for 20-30 minutes a pop, because those things were covered so much when they happened. Because of this, the format doesn't really do the film any favors, instead being its downfall.
It's probably the interviews with Cynthia, Lennon's first wife, that are the most interesting aspect. She talks about how the two of them met, how she changed her style to emulate what John wanted, how she was forced to keep the marriage a secret so as not to impact the Beatles' popularity in any way. And, despite this, she still seems to be very much in love with him. Cynthia has hardly a bad word to say, despite the abuse against her and her son, which is well-documented elsewhere. Their son Julian's recollections are also powerful, if brief. The film also hints at an interesting dichotomy between sweet, soft-spoken Cynthia, and the much more brash and outspoken Ono. It's these personal relationships that sort of form the heart of this jumble of a film, and while they certainly don't save it from itself, they do touch on the evolution of Lennon as an artist, and lend the film a hint of a purpose.
The most glaring omission, on the other hand, is almost certainly anything to do with The Beatles. No Beatles music appears in the film whatsoever, and Lennon's personal relationships with the other three members go almost completely unexamined, save but for a few clips of George Harrison and Paul McCartney talking about Lennon after his death. Ringo Starr's perspective is conspicuously absent. The most the film focuses on is the massive success of the group, mainly through the eyes of Cynthia Lennon, and nothing shown is anything particularly interesting or engaging.
To be honest, I'm not sure what the intended audience of this movie was—it's not Beatles diehards, since there's a complete dearth of content related to the band. It's not Lennon historians, since everything covered here is so painfully basic. If you go into this film knowing absolutely nothing about John Lennon, you won't be much more educated by the time it's done. The film tells you very little about the subject it's covering—perhaps the greatest flaw a documentary can have—but, more to the point, it just isn't very interesting. If you're looking for anything this movie claims to be, look elsewhere—you won't find it here.