Everything Went Fine
by Matt Weiner
It feels indecent to call this euthanasia-based film from Francois Ozon “laid back.” But Everything Went Fine pulls off an exceptional character study with cool restraint, grounded performances and an unexpected well of humanity.
With a screenplay by Ozon based on a memoir by frequent collaborator Emmanuèle Bernheim, this dramatized version centers around the loving but complicated relationship between Emmanuèle (Sophie Marceau) and her father, André (André Dussollier, playing a difficult role with grace—and without sentimentality).
As the favored daughter, Emmanuèle bears the full emotional weight of her father’s request to end his life after a debilitating stroke at age 85. Assisted suicide is not an option for them in France, but the family has the means to maneuver through the quasi-legal (and not inexpensive) hoops for André to travel to a foundation in Switzerland that assists in the process.
The film counts down André’s final months with the matter-of-fact detailing of a documentary. The Bernheim sisters ride waves of false hope alongside “last milestones” together as André’s progress in physical therapy does not diminish his desire to leave the world on his terms.
Ozon presents the fullness of André’s life with a light touch—a mix of pregnant flashbacks, current regrets and the odd row with past lovers. André’s love for his daughters shines through it all, which is shadowed by a masterful cameo from Charlotte Rampling as André’s deeply depressed wife. Brief and reserved as her time is onscreen, Rampling’s detached presence breathes life into the couple’s challenging lifelong relationship.
The film mostly concerns itself with philosophical end-of-life questions. A sudden moment of legal suspense arises toward the end of André’s countdown, but Ozon clearly favors interpersonal drama over legal minutiae. Who are lawyers or the French courts to say what life means, anyway? That’s for the artists to decide. A noble sentiment from the filmmaker, if one that has the effect of blunting the controversial subject. There’s surprisingly little bite here for such a provocative topic from a filmmaker who doesn’t shy away from taboo.
But even that works in the movie’s favor. The family’s various responses to death at first feel soulless, even for a group of wealthy, ultra-cool Parisians. But Ozon allows longstanding tensions to simmer slowly alongside familial bonds. And even if the pot never boils over, this more detached approach ends up being all the more cathartic in the end.