Movie Review: Every Thing Will Be Fine
German filmmaker Wim Wenders turns the Canadian landscape into a snow globe with 3D technology, and a cast that includes Rachel McAdams, Marie-Josée Croze and the near-omnipresent James Franco
Every Thing Will Be Fine
Starring: James Franco, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Rachel McAdams, Marie-Josée Croze
Directed by: Wim Wenders
Running time: 118 minutes
By Katherine Monk
The French made the first snow globes shortly after glass paperweights came into vogue at the turn of the 19th century. But it was a German inventor, a maker of surgical instruments, who obtained the patent for a fluid-filled orb in the hopes he could make a brighter light source for medical procedures.
It’s a difference that speaks to creative traditions, national identities and world-views all in one hermetically sealed micro-universe –with the French seeing an objet d’art and a piece of decor, while the ever-pragmatic German psyche saw the same ampoule and sought out practical, scientific uses.
It’s not a particularly important chapter in history. Snow globes did not revolutionize surgical theatres; they went on to become kitsch souvenirs filled with silver glitter and miniaturized city skylines.
But as cheesy as they are, they conjure a certain sentiment – something intimate and cozy, a childlike yearning for containment in an idealized setting, complete with log house, glowing hearth and cherub-cheeked babes playing in the snow.
Stretching into the infinitely frozen hinterland, the Canadian landscape is far too vast to be contained in a little ball, yet German filmmaker Wim Wenders successfully places a tiny piece of it into his latest film, Everything Will Be Fine, a cinematic snowglobe that transforms the icy Quebecois landscape into a reflective fairy world.
Capitalizing on a technology developed for mass escapism, Wenders uses digital 3D technology to bring an added dimension to his aspiring art film about grief and loss, so even when the drama starts to feel a little fabricated, it still feels like a natural extension of this fake little universe covered in snow.
From the opening scenes showing James Franco in an ice fishing cabin surrounded by tin roof churches glinting in the winter sun, Wenders offers us a world in miniature, then he takes both hands, and shakes it up.
Within a few scenes, a child is dead, Franco’s character is tortured by guilt, and love begins to crack and fracture with an aching gong.
It’s an archetypal Canadian story, the kind Canadians have been filming since the corpse fell out of the coffin in Mon Oncle Antoine, but told through a German lens, it looks entirely different.
There’s a “Gemütlichkeit” to the Canadian landscape that’s entirely foreign, but it brings a German fairy tale element to the denouement that serves the story – allowing Wenders to craft a full arc of tragedy in a small, contained, snowy space.
Look carefully, and you can peer into the glowing yellow windows of Kate’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) little cabin nestled in the woods. Press your eyeball against the glass, and you can see the tears of a mother’s grief.
Without unlacing all the details of Bjorn Olaf Johannessen’s script, Every Thing Will Be Fine tells the story of Tomas Eldan (Franco), a novelist struggling to create. When Tomas accidentally kills one of Kate’s children, he’s haunted by the what-ifs, but he’s become rather prolific and successful in the wake of tragedy, adding a whole new layer of guilt to an already rich patina of pain.
Making things even more complicated is the dynamic between Tomas and the surviving child Christopher (Robert Naylor), a kid so full of self-loathing he can barely accept love – ensuring everyone, including his mother, remains at arm’s length.
Romance forms another narrative piste as Tomas tracks different lovers through his wintery season – forging relationships with every woman in the frame, from Sara (Rachel McAdams) to Ann (Marie-Josee Croze) – but like most of the plot prints in this film, they eventually vanish under a blanket of flakes.
For the viewer, it means a lot of frustrating dead ends – tracks that head off into the woods and abruptly disappear, forcing us to walk in circles until the next emotional thaw.
Coupled with an artsy sense of pretense that stems directly from Franco’s winking smirk, there are times when Every Thing Will Be Fine feels more like a fancy ice sculpture on a banquet table than a movie: An artfully chiseled piece of frozen emotion designed to impress, complete with smart references to Canadian signposts such as Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter (check out the little model school bus on the nightstand).
Wenders successfully maps the Canadian experience as he circumnavigates the existential pit of loss, and he recreates it with stereoscopic vision. Experts in Canadian cinema will be surprised at how different the whole landscape appears rendered through Wenders’s Old World eyes.
It’s enough of an esthetic thrill to overcome the innate heaviness, but it can’t override the sense of emotional vacancy. This is a little snowglobe where the houses look warm and inviting against the shimmering white, but the people always seem pale and partly frozen—numb to life, and answering tragedy with a line as banal as “Every Thing Will Be Fine.”
Read The Ex-Press interview with Wim Wenders by clicking here.
“As a German, I already have a tendency to be romantic. And so even if the first part of the film is not romantic at all because of the traumatic event, things get warmer as we move along. The characters are trying to heal—but they don’t know how. You know, is it time that heals? Is it something else? We have to feel all these things, and one of the best ways to show your viewer the passing of time is through the landscapes. They change. – Wim Wenders
THE EX-PRESS, December 11, 2015