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Categories: Movie Reviews

Wim Wenders’ “Every Thing Will Be Fine”, starring James Franco as an author who deals with depression and grief after accidentally running over a child, is an exhausting disappointment, an experiment in 3D with a story too drawn-out and jumbled to hold attention.

Every Thing Will Be Fine, Wim Wenders’ first fictional feature film since 2008, was highly anticipated before its premiere at Berlinale. Opening to mixed response, its theatrical future now hangs in the balance, but luckily (?) for me it’s been released here in France, and I was able to see it in its full 3-dimensional glory at the largest screen at my local UGC theater. And oh boy was it a soul-sucking experience.

James Franco stars, or more accurately stares, as Tomas, a stoic writer who at the outset of the film is staying in a small cabin in the middle of a snowy Canadian wasteland, working on his next book in the peace and quiet of nature. When he first meet him we’re instantly struck by the 3D cinematography, broadening our connection with his world and accentuating the vastness of the natural landscape. You’d think a drama is the last place 3D is necessary or even fitting, but for a while it seems to work here. Why Wenders and cinematographer Benoît Debie chose the 3D route is beyond me, but it at least does exactly what it says on the tin by adding another dimension to a world as morose as its protagonist.

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Tomas is getting nowhere with his book, and so decides to take a drive out to visit his girlfriend Sara (Rachel McAdams, doing a French accent for whatever reason). There’s obviously an incongruity in their relationship, but she doesn’t want to admit it. His writing takes time, and she does her best to understand that. Tomas gets into his beat-up car and drives down the snowy road home, no other cars in sight ahead of him. But then, out of nowhere, he sees a boy on a sled slide in front of his car, and they both grind to a halt.

Tomas nervously gets out of the car, hoping of course that he hasn’t caused a tragedy. He finds the boy still sitting upright on his sled, stone-faced but still alive. Tomas is relieved. He picks the boy up on his shoulders and carries him home, only a few hundred feet away. When he rings the doorbell, he’s answered by the boy’s concerned mother Kate (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Tomas smiles and says there’s been a little accident, but everything will be fine. “Where’s Nicholas?” Kate asks. Tomas is shocked, and soon learns that there were two boys on that sled. The tragic revelation that he has been the accidental perpetrator of the death of a child is of course a horrid one, and sets off a pattern of grief that will shape his life for the next 12 years.

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The rest of Every Thing Will Be Fine deals with a variety of moments in Tomas’ life, including his failure to retain his relationship with Sara, a later romance with a fellow writer, Ann (Marie-Josée Croze), his eventual friendship with Kate and an older Christopher, the boy whose brother he killed (Robert Naylor), and his success as a writer (it’s noted multiple times that his work vastly improved post-tragedy).

All of these aspects could work very well as part of a concise, flowing drama, but apart from a few highlights the story is muddled by myriad inharmonious elements. The dialogue oscillates between overly simplistic and unrealistically profound, and none of the actors seem to be putting too much effort or energy into coming across naturally or passionately. Strangest of all is the inclusion of a subplot involving Tomas’ father (Patrick Bauchau), which consists mainly of the dad complaining about his life and Tomas saying something along the lines of “every thing will be fine”. The scenes have almost no connection to the central tragedy or even Tomas’ character development, and don’t really provide any level of entertainment or depth, either.

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There are a few highlights in the beigeness, most of them involving Tomas’ relationship with Sara. Rachel McAdams gives the film’s best performance, despite using an accent other than her own for inexplicable reasons. A climactic part of the plot also involves Tomas’ attempts to distance Christopher, who has become obsessed with the man who held him on his shoulders ever since the tragedy. Some of the things Christopher says and does are strange to the point of being laughable, but they at least add some peaks to a film that feels like an endless valley.

As I mentioned before, the use of 3-D isn’t all that bad here, since a lot of the shots are great to look at even if (or even because) nothing of importance is happening in them. Nature is pretty much great to look at in any form, and this film understands that, at least. That said, 3-D isn’t too easy on the eyes, and since most of the shots in the film are long and still, by the end of the two hours I felt as if my eyes were going to fall out of my head.

This is the film to watch if you want to see James Franco and Charlotte Gainsbourg be even less expressive than usual, framed beautifully in 3 dimensions. If you’re looking for something a bit more vibrant, though, steer clear.

Every Thing Will Be Fine premiered in Berlinale and is now out in France. UK & US release dates are yet to be announced. 

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Posted on May 4, 2015

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