French film “Everything Went Fine” is restrained but poignant as simply observing a very serious family matter. While never overlooking its main characters’ emotional struggles over that matter, the movie thoughtfully lets us get to know more about them and their life along the story, and we come to reflect more on its sensitive main subject as they finally come to reach to the end of their hard and difficult human experience.
The movie begins with a sudden illness of André (André Dussollier), who is the father of Emmanuèle (Sophie Marceau) and Pascale (Géraldine Pailhas). Shortly after having a stroke, he is promptly sent to a hospital while his two daughters are around him, but, though he still speaks fairly well, it turns out that his stroke seriously affects his physical state on the whole, and both he and his daughters are certainly devastated for that.
He can recover from this to some degree, and he is also affluent enough to receive a very good treatment and rehabilitation process, but André comes to feel rather miserable about his current medical status. While he willingly goes along with the following recuperation period, he often tells Emmanuèle about how he does not feel like himself anymore, and then he requests something his daughter does not accept that well at first. He wants to die as soon as possible, and he is going to need some assistance from her and her younger sister for that.
Of course, Emmanuèle is upset by this grim request from her father. As shown from several brief flachback scenes, André was not exactly someone to win the Father of the Year award, but both she and Pascale still love and care about their father nonetheless, and that certainly makes them feel quite conflicted about his request. Yes, they may follow that as his dear daughters, but, needless to say, there are surely lots of legal and ethical matters surrounding euthanasia, which happens to illegal in France.
Nevertheless, as watching how her father becomes more miserable and helpless due to his illness, Emmanuèle eventually decides to give what her father wants, and Pascale reluctantly joins her later. After doing some online search, Emmanuèle comes upon a Swiss institution for euthanasia, and the information from its website reminds her again of what a tricky matter euthanasia really is. While euthanasia is legalized in Switzerland, it is still a matter to be handled with uttermost caution and consideration, and that aspect is evident when Emmanuèle meets a middle-aged woman coming from that institution. It is apparent that this old lady has seen a lot as meeting people like André and Emmanuèle, and she dutifully informs Emmanuèle on how discreet the institution is from the beginning to the end. Besides not leaving any possibility for legal trouble, they are also going to make sure about André’s wish to die – even right before the point of no return.
Because there is still some possibility for dissuading her father from killing himself, Emmanuèle holds onto some hope while continuing to prepare for his death. As everything is ready for his death step by step, André actually feels better than before, and he is even willing to live a bit more just because he wants to attend a little private concert where one of Pascale’s kids will perform.
Meanwhile, we get to know more about some old problems in André’s family. While feeling a little sorry for him, his frigid ex-wife Claude (Charlotte Rampling) does not particularly want to spend more time with him, and the main reason for that is gradually revealed via a certain supporting character who is not so welcomed by his daughters. They are ready to stop this figure from approaching to André, but then it turns out that, despite his fear and worry, André still has some feeling toward this figure. As watching them in one brief scene, we can only guess how complicated their relationship is, and the movie wisely does not try to explain more.
In the end, there comes a point where André is supposedly ready for his euthanasia, and the situation becomes a bit tense as he and his daughters come upon another trouble on their way, but the screenplay by director/writer François Ozon, which is based on Emmanuèle Bernheim’s autobiographical novel of the same name, maintains its restrained attitude as usual. I have no idea on how much the movie is actually close to Bernheim’s novel or her real-life experience, but I can tell you instead that the movie did a deft balancing act between humor and drama, and its eventual arrival point is quietly touching as a result.
Under Ozon’s thoughtful direction, the main cast members are believable in their characters’ recognizable human behaviors. While Sophie Marceau demonstrates here that she is still a good actress, André Dussollier ably swings back and forth among different harrowing emotions, and Géraldine Pailhas and Charlotte Rampling are also solid as two other substantial characters in the story.
On the whole, “Everything Went Fine” is another fine work from Ozon, who recently impressed me a lot with “By the Grace of God” (2019) but then disappointed me a lot with “Summer of 85” (2020). After “Everything Went Fine”, he soon moved onto “Peter von Kant” (2022), and, considering how he bounces back here, I guess I can have some expectation on that next film of his.
I think it’s worth noting that the woman from the institution is played by Hanna Schygulla, who starred in a few of Fassbinder’s films, including The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. I see she also appears in Ozon’s (sort of, I gather) remake of that film, which I hope to catch in BIFF, if I can get a ticket.
SC: I am already looking forward to watching Ozon’s latest film.
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