Dir: Yves Christian Fournier. Canada. 2008. 118mins.
Quebec director Yves Christian Fournier's first feature, Everything is Fine, is a sombre, frequently moving portrait limning the emotional and social aftermath of a tragedy. Fournier's reach sometimes exceeds his grasp, but his complicated and nuanced study of sorrow and loss is sharpened by an impressive visual expression and some very fine performances.
Adapted from a first script by well-regarded Quebecois novelist Guillaume Vigneault, Fournier's film navigates the emotional and moral bounds of the exceptionally difficult subject of teenage suicide. Fournier never romanticizes or exploits the material, shrouding the work in unambiguous expressions of pain and sadness. The movie works through a range of references, from Robert Bresson's difficult 1977 masterpiece The Devil Probably to the recent nihilist works about teenagers by Larry Clark (Bully) and Gus van Sant (Elephant, Last Days).
The movie premiered in the Panorama section at Berlin days before its Quebec release through Alliance Vivafilm. Montreal-based sales agent Seville International completed deals in France, Benelux and Switzerland. Outside of French-speaking territories, the movie's commercial reach is less certain. Save the works of Denys Arcand and Robert Lepage, French Canadian directors struggle to have their works play theatrically in the US. Despite the harsh subject matter, the movie is a strong festival title and has ancillary potential.
The movie opens with a shocking burst of violence of a young man shooting himself to death in an open field. Moments later, 17-year-old Josh (Dumontier) kicks in the barricaded door at the room of his best friend Thomas (Bessette) and finds his asphyxiated body. The deaths form an indescribable and shocking suicide pact connecting Josh's four closest friends. The moody and emotionally volatile Josh is left reeling in the wake of their deaths.
In his grieving, he falls into a wary and increasingly uncontrollable relationship with Mia (Bourgeois). She is a beautiful and self-possessed young woman who was the former girlfriend of one of his friends. Increasingly at odds with and unable to connect with his parents, Josh attempts to connect with Thomas' father (D'Amour).
Fournier's background is in making documentaries and commercials. He demonstrates a sharp eye for detail and melancholy visual expressions. Working with the talented cinematographer Sara Mishara, Fournier repeatedly draws on the hard scrabble provincial Montreal landscapes or the evocative physical structures, especially skateboard ramps and bridges that yield an especially overwhelming sense of absence. By playing through his imagination the source of his friends' discontent, Josh is required to replay in his own mind the off hand, colourful adventures and experiences they shared together.
The movie is weakest in showing Josh's strained interactions with his parents (Legault and Turgeon) or a school social worker (Brilliant), the standard clash of wills and fights for power and authority between a teenager and adults. The more telling and meaningful encounters of teenagers and adults are found in Mia's difficult and emotional powerful interaction with the devastated mother (Pascale) of her former boyfriend. Furthermore, Fournier and Vigneault adopt a bruising humour, particular the complicated friendship that develops between Josh and his friend's father, their bonding achieved through the older man's obsession with golf.
Fournier has also described the influence of Terrence Malick. In the plaintive soundtrack or the negative space of the people constantly rendered invisible or irretrievably absent, Fournier finds the right emotional register of the inconsolable entwined with the ineffable, the unexplainable. Everything is Fine works perceptibly in expressing the tormented consciousness of young men, never cheapening their lives but making their loss palpable and real.
Director of photography