By Ariana DiValentino
Wim Wenders, the veteran filmmaker behind the masterful classics “Paris, Texas” and “Wings of Desire,” was not only the subject of this year’s Homage series at the Berlinale, but also debuted a new film of his own within the competition series: “Every Thing Will Be Fine,” a 3-D drama starring James Franco as a brooding writer who, in a tragic accident, hits and kills a child with his car. The premise is certainly interesting, but if the combination of drama, 3-D, and James Franco sounds puzzling, that is because it is — the film is comprised of a slew of inexplicable choices, not the least of which is why the word “everything” is split in two in the title.
After the accident, Franco, as the sad artist type Tomas, goes on a downward spiral culminating in a failed suicide attempt, after which the film traces a series of loosely-related life events over the next twelve years. Rachel McAdams appears, perhaps too briefly and with a strange and unnecessary French-Canadian accent, as Tomas’ girlfriend; he cares for his bitter and increasingly declining father; he shares a special relationship with the single mother of the child who has died and his surviving brother. The most interesting the script posits is how will Tomas’ experience contrast with that of the mother and her living son, and the effect of the accident on Tomas’ writing is hinted at toward the end. We suspect that he might, or at least should feel a touch guilty for possibly exploiting the tragedy for his own career; however, this is not explored with nearly enough depth as it could have been. Aside from a rather bizarre series of interactions with the now-adolescent surviving brother, Christopher, it truly seems as though for the most part, everything (save for Tomas’ mood) already is fine.
For a story so lacking in plot elements, one would expect the script to be heavily character-driven. The only growth we see in Tomas, however, is a slow forgetting of the accident and an uptick in book sales. As a result, James Franco does not have much to carry apart from brooding, which may be for the best because in his few impassioned moments, his performance is not terribly believable — although the writing may be more at blame here, given that such obtuse lines as “neither one of us is fine” shove the film’s loose themes in the viewer’s face.
Even more puzzling are some of the technical aspects of the film. Being in three dimensions, while not necessarily depreciating the experience, does not contribute to the film’s unsuccessful try for emotional depth either. While some interesting shots capture layers of action through reflections and distance, the 3-D ultimately acts as an unnecessary amplifier to nice but not stunning cinematography that occasionally catches pretty nature scenery in the background while James Franco gazes out windows and into the beyond. 3-D has yet to be well-adapted to the melodrama, and it does not find an appropriate footing in “Every Thing Will Be Fine,” either. Other unusual characteristics, such as odd editing choices in which every single scene ends with an abrupt fade to black, contribute to the film’s overall quality of inexplicability.
Despite a number of interesting risks and plot elements, the film hangs so closely onto a several tropes and archetypes that audiences are unlikely to find these two long hours memorable for much more than simply being a strange incarnation of the melodrama and the brooding artist. There may have been potential for fascinating psychological exploration, but no matter how deep viewers (and Franco) gaze into the 3-D horizon, there simply isn’t much to be found.
Ariana DiValentino is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.