Berlinale 2015: Wim Wenders' Compelling 'Every Thing Will Be Fine'
by Alex Billington
February 11, 2015
It seems as if James Franco is in everything these days, working with so many different filmmakers from all over the world (Boyle, Gondry, Gordon Green, Korine, Raimi, Coppola, Haggis, Herzog). One of his latest appearances is in the film Every Thing Will Be Fine, the latest dramatic work from legendary German filmmaker Wim Wenders, which just premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. This deeply contemplative and compelling film is an extensive look at grief, and how that powerful emotion affects people over many years. There's a very chilling, almost Fincher-esque feel to it that makes this play almost more like a thriller than a drama. Oh, and it's shot in 3D, as Wenders has been exploring 3D ever since his vibrant 3D dance doc Pina.
"A winter's evening. A country road. It is snowing, visibility is poor. Out of nowhere, a sledge glides down a hill. Brakes are slammed on, the car comes to a halt. Silence." That chilling opening plot synopsis comes straight from the Berlinale guide, and is honestly the best way to setup this heavy drama. From here, we follow James Franco as Tomas Eldan, who learns to cope with grief and tragedy in his own ways, while reflecting on reactions from others around him. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays Kate, the distraught mother, and he spends time with her as well. Tomas' first girlfriend, Sara, is played by Rachel McAdams with a Quebecois accent; and his other girlfriend, Ann, is played by Marie-Josée Croze, an actual Quebec native.
Franco can sometimes be hit or miss in films, and this time it's a hit. He really takes on the grief in this one, with a very muted and rather mellow performance that actually speaks volumes despite how downplayed it is. Some may find this performance a bit excruciating to watch, but I was mesmerized (to each his own). I could see the pain in Franco's eyes, and there are some very bold shots (in 3D mind you!) where the actors are looking directly into the camera during a conversation; it cuts between each person and their gaze. It's a bit eerie, but effective, and adds a more poignant layer to the film - it's as if these people are talking directly to us, even though we can't contribute in the conversation. We're forced to watch, and feel, and understand.
There's no denying that Wim Wenders is an extremely talented filmmaker with an impressive oeuvre. With this film, I believe he continues to show how capable he is at understanding the depths of human emotion. The film spans an extensive 12 years of time, and uses cuts and slow fades to transition from years to year, with title cards ranging from "2 Years Later" to "4 Years Later". A few of these transitions were a bit hasty, and perhaps this structure is the biggest drawback, but by the end I appreciated the elongated view at grief. Something as tragic as the accident that occurs in this film will last with the people involved for the rest of their lives, and it extends far into their emotions in a rather bold way. I was invested all the way to the end.
In addition to the intimate and honest structure of the film, I was also very impressed by two aspects: the cinematography by Benoît Debie, and the amazing score by Alexandre Desplat. This is one of the most beautifully composed 3D films I've ever seen. The key to using 3D effectively, especially in a drama, lies in composing each scene for 3D, which goes well beyond composing for flat widescreen. The landscapes and characters are choreographed in the frame perfectly, and I was in awe of nearly every shot. As for Desplat's score, it is another instant favorite of mine; an eerie, stirring, mysterious creation (similar to Desplat's The Ghost Writer but with much more emotional weight). I'm already anxious to get a copy to listen to myself.
Alex's Berlinale 2015 Rating: 8 out of 10
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