Dir: Wim Wenders. Germany-Canada-Australia-Sweden-Norway. 2015. 118mins
Wim Wenders’ otherworldly return to narrative film-making is an up-close-and-personal meditation on loss and healing shot in stilted 3D. Starring James Franco as a repressed novelist struggling to overcome a traumatic event, Every Thing Will Be Fine is a challenging visual experience as Wenders and his crew zone in on faces but struggle with depth-of-field, slashing or bisecting each frame with diagonals and verticals, creating depth and shadow in a disappointingly flat affair.
With its focus on the interior live of an artist who is confronted with the ultimate tragedy of his own making, Johannessen has dealt with some very Nordic themes, but they’re of universal concern. Wenders hasn’t particularly made a case for treating them in 3D, but it’s a notable experiment.
Technically, Every Thing Will Be Fine makes for fascinating viewing as Wenders consolidates the visual steps made by Pina. Commercially, it’s unlikely to be quite so compelling, outside niche festival slots and of course at home in Germany, where Wenders is revered. This is James Franco’s film, with the actor playing a melancholic writer who glides slowly – almost ghost-like - through traumatic events. Captured throughout in tight 3D close-up, he’s still, drained, exhausted.
Franco’s Tomas is also the only character who doesn’t visibly age through Every Thing Will Be Fine’s 12-year narrative span (a distracting similarity to Boyhood). Although the film is clearly about Tomas coming to terms with the traumatic events of the opening sequences, his journey is almost completely internalised. In a gripping set-up which introduces this meditation on guilt, Tomas drives home through the driving snow and kills a child in an accident for which he cannot be blamed. But Tomas cannot forgive himself either. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays Kate, the boy’s British mother, while Rachel McAdams is his girlfriend Sara.
The Norwegian writer Bjorn Olaf Johannessen’s script spends a short amount of time with Tomas before the accident, and it is unclear whether this has made him so reserved and withdrawn, or simply aggravated pre-existing writerly tendencies. Gainsbourg reprises the role of a grieving mother, lost in the woods, but her character is slight and there mostly to aid Tomas’s journey. She does not hold him at fault for her son’s death, so the guilt is entirely his own. A teenage sibling introduces some much-needed tension in the final frames.
Set in French-speaking Quebec, Every Thing Will Be Fine seems slightly unreal, out of time and place – none of the characters appear particularly rooted in the area, despite their clipped accents (which are not uniform and mostly distracting, especially in the case of McAdams). This could be anywhere. Alexandre Desplatt’s original orchestral score and designer Emmanuel Frechette’s switch from bleached white to rich jewel tones, coupled with the ultra-tight shots and murky backgrounds, make Wenders’ film seem like a fable, in which anything could happen. A beautiful fable, though, with the Hudson River sparkling in the background.
Wenders opted to work with cinematographer Benoit Debie (Irreversible, Enter The Void) for the first time, and it is Debie’s first film in 3D (Erwin Schmidt acted as 3D producer). Together they have delivered some arresting moments, from a blended two-way telephone conversation which is eerily effective with its shallow depth, to forced perspectives, to claustrophobic interiors. With its focus on the interior live of an artist who is confronted with the ultimate tragedy of his own making, Johannessen has dealt with some very Nordic themes, but they’re of universal concern. Wenders hasn’t particularly made a case for treating them in 3D, but it’s a notable experiment.
Production company: Neue Road Movies
International sales: HanWay Films, email@example.com
Producer: Gian-Piero Ringel
Executive producers: Jeremy Thomas, Hussain Armashi, Erwin M. Schmidt, Vince Jolivette
Screenplay: Bjorn Olaf Johannessen
Cinematography: Benoit Debie
Editor: Toni Froschammer
Production designer: Emmanuel Frechette
Music: Alexandre Desplatt
Main cast: James Franco, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Marie-Josee Croze, Rachel McAdams, Robert Naylor, Patrick Bauchau, Peter Stormare