Every Thing Will Be Fine (2015)

Directed by Wim Wenders

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Every Thing Will Be Fine is a melodrama that keeps you at arm’s distance.  Told over the course of a decade it tells the struggle of a man, woman and child after a fatal accident.  He, Tomas (James Franco) was the driver of a car that hit one of two young brothers, the other coming out unscathed.

Over time he occasionally reaches out to Kate (Charlotte Gainsbourg), the boy’s mother and vice versa.  When her other son, Chris, gets older he will reach out to Tomas as well.  The film then tells the story of grief, guilt and the traumatic ramifications of a tragedy like this one.

It’s a strange film, aesthetically beautiful and scored to grand, operatic music.  The performances, however are incredibly restrained, to the point that you might think the actors are sleepwalking through each scene.

It is so overt, this sleepwalking, that at times I had to wonder if this was a truly awful movie.  James Franco just smolders most of the time, and his first wife (Rachel McAdams) continually pines for him in a way that suggests she’s based only on underwritten female characters, not anyone true to life.

But there are other effects at play that similarly keep you at a distance.  McAdams, for one, has a strange, unplaceable accent that, knowing Rachel McAdams, isn’t her own.  It is instead forced on the character.  Similarly other characters will speak with accents that don’t tell you much about them, just that they might not be from here.  It wasn’t even until the end of the film when you see a French STOP sign, that there’s much of a clue as to where this film takes place.

It might just be that this is how people sound in a certain region of Canada, or it might be that we’re never quite supposed to be able to figure out the time and place of this story.  Though certain moments were quite awkward and some transitions sudden and uneven, as a whole I thought it worked out pretty well.  I imagine it must be a purposeful alienating tactic, never letting us get too close to these characters.

They hardly even feel like three-dimensional characters but rather some strange combination of traumatized fashion models.  They are for the most part all attractive, living in either quaint or ornate homes, and they all have professions that would be considered successful.  Tomas is a writer, and Kate is a visual artist.

So Every Thing Will Be Fine is at once terrible and strangely riveting.  The opening and closing sequences, at the very least, are executed quite deftly.  The camera moves with efficiency and purpose, stretching out the tension or clueing us into a character’s state of mind.  It’s as if the whole thing has been produced in molasses, from the methodical camera movements to the sleepy acting.  Everything here is, in a sense, doused in formaldehyde, preserving an eerie but consistent tone about a fever dream of grief over time.

Up Next: Kings of the Road (1976), Fear (1996), The Queen of Versailles (2012)

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