If there’s one theme or idea that runs like a bright thread through Francois Ozon’s films is that it’s often tough to be a member of the educated upper classes in France. Occasionally, he has fun with this theme in a mocking way (8 Women), but for the most part he really does seem to pity the rich because they have to put up with people always interrogating their motives. He crystallizes this approach in Everything Went Fine, which addresses the matter of assisted suicide with a fair amount of seriousness but without trying to avoid the obvious truth that the “problem” isn’t as difficult for these particular people because they have money and resources.
Loosely based on a memoir by the late Emmanuele Bernheim, a frequent Ozon collaborator, the movie centers on Sophie Marceau as Bernheim, a preternaturally focused woman in her 50s who is asked by her father, Andre (Andre Dussollier), to help him kill himself after he suffers a debilitating stroke. Naturally, Emmanuele resists his entreaty and seems put off by the fact that Andre only asks her for this assistance and not Emmanuele’s sister, Pascale (Geraldine Pailhas), despite the fact that Pascale, due to her more pliant nature, would probably be more agreeable to the task. But though Andre has sufficient assets and connections, that task is going to be difficult, since France does not allow assisted suicide for someone in Andre’s situation, and Emmanuele would seem better suited emotionally since it means he will have to be transported to Switzerland. Most of the movie is about this struggle to fulfill her father’s wishes, and as such it’s fortified with flashbacks and other detailed exposition about the family history, including Emmanuele’s fraught relationship with Andre. Then there’s Emmanuele’s mother (Charlotte Rampling), a woman with her own infirmities in the forms of depression and Parkinson’s, who it turns out married Andre with full knowledge that he was gay. Ozon uses Andre’s homosexuality to emphasize his penchant for casual cruelty as he prevents his lover from visiting him out of a kind of sick pride. At one point, Pascale even describes Andre as a “monster,” and the flashbacks point to a streak of violence that occasionally emerges in his interactions with hospital staff. Ozon doesn’t avoid the possibility that Andre’s attitude is tied to his privilege—if anything he stresses it.
In the final, and often powerful, third of the film, Emmanuele is forced to come to grips with her feelings about her father as she travels to Switzerland and arranges for his demise. Personally, I could have used more explication of the process involved in assisted suicide, as well as its philosophical underpinnings, as presented by the pertinent institute’s representative, played by the great German actor Hanna Schygulla. In my mind, Ozon doesn’t really do enough with his social-minded content, as if he assumed it isn’t the reason we are watching his movie, but he cares sufficiently to give a clue as to his own feelings about these matters. Still, you have to wonder if those feelings would be any different if his protagonists weren’t so well off.
In French. Opens Feb. 3 in Tokyo at Human Trust Cinema Yurakucho (03-6259-8608), Shinjuku Musashinokan (03-3354-5670), Bunkamura Le Cinema Shibuya (03-3477-9264).
Everything Went Fine home page in Japanese
photo (c) 2020 Mandarin Production – FOZ – France 2 Cinema – Playtime Production – Scope Pictures