Fairly often in screening rooms before independent or art films there’s one would-be comedian ready to crack a joke about the film being in 3D. Yes, it’s quite a hacky joke and one that I’d be happy to never hear again, but then comes a movie like Wim Wenders’ Every Thing Will Be Fine. A lengthy two-hour drama presented in 3D, this is that one tired joke brought to life with disastrous results. An accomplished filmmaker, Wenders apparently spent more time crafting the 3D frames of the film before concerning himself with these bland 2D characters. If you like well-intentioned but inept family dramas told at a glacial pace in 3D, Every Thing Will Be Fine is for you and only you.
The film takes place over the course of a decade, though that doesn’t become clear until much later in the film. At the beginning, we’re introduced to Tomas Eldan (James Franco), a struggling writer who has secluded himself in the frozen tundra of Canada to work on his next novel. But one fateful day, Tomas goes out for a drive and accidentally hits a young boy with his car, killing him. The panicked response of Kate (Charlotte Gainsbourg) haunts Tomas as he dives into a self-destructive spiral of shame and alcoholic self-destruction. It doesn’t take long for Tomas’ relationship with Sara (Rachel McAdams) to disintegrate. As the years pass, Tomas gets himself together and becomes a successful novelist. On occasion Tomas still talks with Kate about the guilt of that fateful day, the two building a distant bond over the tragedy of yesteryear. Even years later, Tomas is married to Ann (Marie-Josée Croze) and living a quaint life in suburbia, guilt free and successful. Things start to change when Tomas receives a letter from Kate’s other son Christopher (Robert Naylor), and the young man’s search for answers could reopen old wounds.
There are questions that swirl around Every Thing Will Be Fine – mainly: Why in the hell is this movie in 3D? Not that there’s any one kind of movie that needs to be in 3D, but there’s no discernable reason that this somber little drama needed the extra dimension. Wenders and cinematographer Benoît Debie do try to make the most of the gimmick. The camera employs numerous dolly zooms and slow movements to play with the depth of the frame, but they’re the only thing that’s interesting in the whole film. The drama is methodical with few surprises, and I can’t pick up any theme besides shit happens and we move on.
Between his performance here and in Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert, a restraining order should be placed to ensure that James Franco is kept far away from the frames of any legendary German filmmaker. Franco plays the role in a distant, almost sedate manner that undercuts whatever drama there might’ve been in the film. But Franco’s not alone in being woefully out of place. Rachel McAdams, who was stellar in this year’s Spotlight, gives what might be the worst performance of her career as the French-Canadian girlfriend. Another fine actress wasted in Every Thing Will Be Fine is Charlotte Gainsbourg, who is simply tasked with quiet mourning and understated compassion.
3D gimmickry and genuinely bad acting isn’t all that makes the film an excruciating experience. The script by Bjørn Olaf Johannessen is just dramatically inert. Before the fateful accident, it’s obvious that something bad is just around the corner. But the events just continue to float through a decade with little tension or moral ambiguity. Even when the film approaches its conclusion and seems to be escalating, it just opts to wrap things up with little conflict or introspection. Every Thing Will Be Fine isn’t an ironic title, it’s just what the movie is about.
Wim Wenders has made great movies before – Wings of Desire is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen – and I’m sure he’ll make another great one. But Every Thing Will Be Fine isn’t a great movie, it’s not a good movie, it’s a really bad movie. Here is a film where so much talent is lost in the snow-filled frames of 3D melodrama. Every thing will be fine unless you’re in the audience.