One France’s most prolific contemporary filmmakers, Francois Ozon reliably turns out a film per year, with each outing a zig to the previous year’s zag.
At his last Cannes premiere in 2017, Ozon scandalized the festival audience with his delightful, defiantly trashy thriller “Double Lover,” a film that opened with a kind of mission statement match-cut — cutting from a gynecologists’ view of a vagina to an ophthalmologists’ view of an eye — and only went bolder from there.
After making two more films since then, he returned to the Cannes Film Festival in the Main Competition section this year with “Everything Went Fine,” a subdued and deliberately unflashy euthanasia tale that Cannes audiences greeted with polite applause before shuffling out of the screening unlikely to speak of it with any real passion — and that might be partly by design.
Adapting author Emmanuèle Bernheim’s memoir of the same name, Ozon stages “Everything Went Fine” as a resolutely unsentimental and surprisingly genteel family drama about a Parisian author trying to honor her ailing father’s wish to end his life. By very intentionally shaving off the rough edges and damping down the high drama, the film feels a bit like a self-imposed antidote to his more outré tendencies in recent films.
Sophie Marceau stars as Emmanuèle, a middle-aged Parisian left with no good option when a stroke leaves her prickly 85-year-old father, André (André Dussollier), half-paralyzed with little chance of full recovery and the headstrong octogenarian decides he’s ready to check out. As we see in sometimes jarring flashbacks, her old man had always cast an imposing shadow over Emmanuèle’s life, and a measly stroke won’t slow him down now. “What an asshole,” she commiserates to her sister. “Right to the end.”
Though André’s condition improves, his conviction does not waver, and the film draws its quiet narrative tension from his daughter’s hope that he will change his mind and André’s insistence that she plan his exit. As the title itself promises, the end is a foregone conclusion, while the film does everything it can to de-sensationalize the material, including revelations about André’s past and sexuality, and reminders that this kind of assisted suicide is still illegal in France.
What remains is an almost procedural approach that details the steps Emmanuèle and her family must go through, against their best wishes, to give André his parting wish. For all of his self-imposed restraints, Ozon remains a terrific actors’ director, with both Marceau and especially Dussollier giving lively performances that afford the film its limited spark. Don’t be surprised to hear either of their names come awards night.
And don’t be surprised to see a wholly different project coming from Ozon next year. In fact it’s already been shot – a gender swapped remake of Fassbinder’s “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.” Francois Ozon’s scope is large; he contains multitudes.
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