'Every Thing Will Be Fine'
If nothing else, Wim Wenders deserves credit for his experimentations in contradiction at the center of ‘Every Thing Will Be Fine’. The film is an attempt to make a subdued melodrama. That’s tough enough to pull off (just ask Atom Egoyan 90% of the time). However, on top of that nearly insurmountable challenge, Wenders also decided to shoot it in 3D.
That’s right, it’s a quiet drama that requires you to wear plastic glasses while you contemplate. Why did Wenders make such a thing? Honestly, I’m not sure. Does it work? Absolutely not. Is interesting? Occasionally, but not nearly enough to justify its existence.
James Franco stars as Tomas, one of those sad and tortured writer types – you know, the kind who turns moping into a lifestyle and artistic thesis. He opens the film struggling to finish his latest book when he accidentally runs over a toddler with his truck. It’s a stirring sequence played well by Franco and Charlotte Gainsbourg as Kate, the grieving mother. In fact, it’s almost enough to make you think that the movie might be going somewhere. But no, Tomas just spirals into every conceivable cliché of depression (even that whole rent-a-hotel-room-and-suck-back-hooch-like-mama’s-milk routine). Rachel McAdams pops up as his girlfriend Sara to provide someone for Tomas to speak his sad thoughts to, and she adds more moping to pad the running time.
Then just when it seems like something might happen, Wenders cuts ahead to the future, where Tomas has found great success as a writer since being inspired by that tragic accident. He visits Kate out of guilt. In a scene that might as well be a parody of a pretentious art film, together they burn the Faulkner novel she was reading when she forgot to watch her children that fateful day.
Cut forward a few more years and Tomas is even more successful, while Kate’s son has become obsessed with Tomas and how their shared tragedy inspired almost all of his writing. Cut forward a few more years and the boy breaks into Tomas’ house and pees on his bed. That’s dramatic! Maybe the story is finally going somewhere! No, it’s not.
‘Every Thing Will Be Fine’ is quite a difficult movie to watch, not merely because it’s bad (and oh boy, is it), but also because Wenders used to be a fascinating filmmaker before he started wasting his time on this sort of drivel. The movie has all of the meandering beauty shots that Wenders used to frame fascinating features like ‘Paris, Texas‘ or ‘Wings of Desire‘ within, but none of the content. Unfortunately, it’s also paced like it has some deeper, richer meanings in play that we should notice. Characters speak incredibly slowly, looking off into the distance as if something important and meaningful is on their mind that they can’t quite verbalize. There’s nothing there, though, just a collection of obvious insights and tedious symbolism.
The acting is pretty rough throughout, but it’s hard to blame anybody since they had so little to work with. James Franco is in that “Sleepy Franco” mode that he assumes when he’s either disinterested in a movie or hosting the Oscars. He’s disengaged, making weepy faces without much rhyme or reason. Charlotte Gainsbourg shows off her ability to cry at will without ever really creating a human being behind the tears. Rachel McAdams is so desperate for something to hinge her thankless girlfriend role on that she adopts a French Canadian accent and sadly does it poorly. There’s another love interest and even a child in Franco’s life, but the actresses aren’t even worth mentioning because they somehow have less to do than the rest of the cast. Wenders always leaned towards minimalism from his actors, favoring world-weary silence over dialogue. Here those techniques seem to be in place purely to pad the running time because the filmmaker doesn’t have much to say.
As empty, dull and lifeless as the movie might be, Wenders’ art house 3D style is compelling. The opening tragedy uses depth in intriguing ways that enhance the drama and realism. Elsewhere, the director exploits the extra dimension for unconventional staging and framing techniques that are rather beautiful in ways that 3D has rarely been used before. Had Wenders applied his experimentally intimate use of 3D to a story with weight, critics would likely applaud his artistic embrace of the format. Unfortunately, he wasted his visual ideas on a story that isn’t merely unworthy of them, but wasn’t worth telling in the first place. If it was revealed that ‘Every Thing Will Be Fine’ is actually a parody of dull, self-important art house pandering, I wouldn’t be surprised and might even feel mildly impressed. Unfortunately, it’s not. This is the real deal and it’s not worth anyone’s time, except possibly as a cautionary tale for future filmmakers.