“I want you to help me end it. Do you hear me?” asks André (André Dussolier) in Everything Went Fine (Tout s’est bien passé). His daughter, Emmanuèle (Sophie Marceau) recoils her hand from his grasp. They’re at the hospital and André wants to end his life. For Emmanuèle, who’s spent weeks at André’s side while he recovers from a stroke, the request is repulsive. She finds it both painful and selfish. However, she also can’t ignore the pain and resignation she sees every time she visits him.
Adapting Emmanuèle Bernheim’s memoir, French director François Ozon deftly probes the challenge of letting go. Everything Went Fine is a change of pace for the director, who generally treads the worlds of psychosexual desires. The restrained end-of-life drama is as far as one can get from the sun-kissed romance of Summer of ’85. This is very heavy material, yet the film never weighs a viewer down. Everything Went Fine matter-of-factly treads the reality that we all say goodbye to loved ones.
Comparisons to Michael Haneke’s Amour are, perhaps, inevitable, but Ozon holds his own to the austere Austrian auteur. It’s not the first time that Ozon’s looked death in the face, nor, presumably the last. From the ghost story of Under the Sand to the haunted memories of Frantz and death pact of Summer of ’85, thoughts of the afterlife permeate his work just as frequently as bones rattle. Death is one of Ozon’s better territories. As Emmanuèle confronts her father’s wishes and her own selfishness and selflessness, she commits an act of love unlike any that André ever showed her.
Marceau’s Master Class
Everything Went Fine marks a notably restrained work from Ozon. The usual playfulness and lightness of touch, moreover, would be tonally inappropriate here. Instead, the drama is crisply sold and borderline cold—but not so many degrees below freezing to alienate the audience. This quietly thoughtful and captivatingly intimate film lets the drama play out on human faces. Gravity sets in as Emmanuèle recognizes that her father is determined to die. Hints of his recovery are only physical: even as she pops champagne to celebrate his good health, he calls her bluff.
Marceau relishes the opportunity to play such a thoughtful and introspective character. The great drama of Everything Went Fine is her master class in composure. Emmanuèle’s life relies on the appearance of order and efficiency. Just look at how much she frets over that half-eaten salmon sandwich she offers her father, lugging it in and out of the freezer, and in and out of the waste-bin. In a way, that sandwich is like her father. It would be a shame to waste it, but there’s no point watching it needlessly expire. She comes to appreciate his wish for a clean and dignified death. André, after all, insists he has no regrets and is content with the savoury bites of life he’s had.
Personal over Political
Emmanuèle does her research and connects with a clinic in Switzerland that facilitates the dying process. She meets with their representative (Hanna Schygulla), who offers a presence of reassuring warmth and kindness. The unnamed Swiss woman contrasts sharply with many of those in André’s life. His ex-wife (Charlotte Rampling) detests him and can barely give the ailing man any time. André’s violent boyfriend, or “gigolo” as the kids call him, brings him tenderness and pain in equal doses. It’s another example that inspires Emmanuèle to recognize that André can swallow the clinic’s bitter medicine.
Everything Went Fine treads a difficult topic with frankness and tenderness. Ozon looks not to the political or the polemical, but the personal. Narratively, Everything Went Fine ultimately takes a side, but characters are divided as André approaches his destination. The film mines the depths of human vulnerability and the lengths to which one goes for love. Relying heavily on the strength of his actors, particularly Marceau and Dussolier and being immeasurably rewarded for it, Everything Went Fine devastates with finely tuned emotional precision and restraint. When Emmanuèle lets her guard down and briefly cracks, Marceau injects the film with the raw heartache of letting go.
Everything Went Fine opens in select theatres including Cineplex Varity in Toronto on April 1.