If I had been led blindfolded into a screening of Every Thing Will Be Fine without knowing who’d directed it, and my continuing existence on this planet depended on guessing who did, I’d be long dead by now. Wenders’ mark is barely felt, so strong is the grip of Bjørn Olaf Johannessen‘s screenplay on the film. A 3D melodrama, on paper Every Thing Will Be Fine seems to be a further development in Wenders’ continuing fascination with the possibilities of 3D, bringing it to the largely uncharted waters of the drama.1 Unfortunately, the use of 3D in the film is a serious step back from the breathtaking beauty of the cinematography in Pina (2011), instead seeming a puzzling, unnecessary novelty.
3D aside, there’s a lot of seriously strange things going on in Every Thing Will Be Fine.2 Set in Quebec, James Franco plays writer Tomas who we first meet struggling with writer’s block, who’s seeking inspiration in a small hut in the wilderness (cliché #1). While there, he accidentally runs over and kills the young son of Kate (Charlotte Gainsbourg, who delivers the film’s best performance as a grieving single mother). This is the catalyst from which all the remaining action stems, clearly framed as an examination of grief and the different ways people deal with it, albeit a very obvious, not very interesting one with the subtlety of a high school English creative writing assignment loaded with Themes and Lessons Learned. You can feel the cogs turning at every single, excruciatingly stilted moment, with wooden dialogue and a thickly-laid on score clearly manufactured to guide the audience’s emotional responses, which instead acts only to point out the dire lack of any such emotional impact the film has.
Rachel McAdams plays Kate, Tomas’ needy Québécois girlfriend with whom he is desperately miserable. (She wants kids, he just wants to write.) Distractingly and bafflingly, she is made to speak in what I think was meant to be a Quebec accent, while everybody else (Franco, Gainsbourg) speaks in their normal accents. Bizarre elements such as this, which pervade Every Thing Will Be Fine, could possibly have worked in a film that took itself less seriously, but in combination with the film’s decidedly morose tone and overt themes, they act as nails in the coffin of any serious engagement.
Attempts at self-referential comedy add to the film’s odd tonal mix, conspicuously wedged in amongst the drudgery and naturally involving “original prankster” Franco. Kate asks Tomas if he likes Faulkner (Franco, of course, having recently adapted As I Lay Dying.) A policeman who comes to Tomas’ house to investigate a suspicious break-in, apologises for not recognising the by now supposedly stratospherically famous author, to which Tomas replies “It’s OK,” Franco sneaking in a trademark squinty grin.
Every Thing Will Be Fine is one of the most regrettable things Wenders has ever put his name to and a far cry from the signs of reinvigorated vitality that Pina promised. It’s the second project he’s made in collaboration with screenwriter Bjørn Olaf Johannessen, who also penned his suffocatingly naff contribution to last year’s compendium effort Cathedrals of Culture. Let’s hope it’s also their last.