Sophie Marceau is a French star whose screen appearances are tightly rationed. She is probably known best by American audiences for “Braveheart” (1995) as Princess Isabella who is sent to negotiate with the Scots as a distraction for William Wallace’s army, and the Pierce Brosnan James Bond picture “The World Is Not Enough” (1999) where she played Elektra King, the headstrong heiress 007 is assigned to guard.
Now we have “Everything Went Fine,” which overcomes its periodic lapses from tantalizing character study into literal melodrama on the strength of Marceau’s memorable performance and the simple, unorthodox tactic of being a good movie.
Marceau, appearing in pretty much every scene, plays Emmanuele Bernheim, a novelist who, when we first see her, is working on an outline for a new book. A phone call brings news that her 85-year-old father Andre (Andre Dussolier), an art collector and museum owner, has suffered a stroke. Emmanuele is joined by her sister Pascale at the hospital and they are shocked to see Andre’s condition — the right side of his mouth and right eyelid droop grotesquely, and his right arm is immobile — but the doctor tells them that with time and therapy, he can take a long road to recovery.
One day during a visit, Andre startles Emmanuele when he grabs her arm and implores her to help him “end it” and to be quick about it. She looks into it just to appease him while hoping he changes his mind. But the more she tells him how much he has to live for, the more resolute he becomes about his demand, and the plot wheels are set in motion.
The movie builds some suspense — will Andre drop his wish at the last minute or will he see it through? — and at the same time becomes a wryly comic caper as the sisters make the necessary arrangements to spirit Andre to Switzerland (French law prohibits assisted suicide) under everyone’s nose. Once there, at an appointed time, he will “drink the potion.” Andre, ever the privileged artistic celebrity, asks Emmanuele, “I wonder how poor people do it.” Emmanuele shrugs and replies, “They wait to die.”
As Andre, Dussolier nearly steals the movie as the upper-class martinet who delivers his lines in a breathy, self-satisfied wheeze and a haughty laugh that conveys his disgust for the rabble he has to deal with — sometimes including his own daughters. He says his estranged, melancholy wife Claude (Charlotte Rampling) has a “heart of cement.” Although Rampling has a small amount of screen time, the flicker of her sad, accusatory eyes expresses the disappointment and bitterness she feels about her marriage.
The director, Francois Ozon, working with the real Emmanuele Bernheim on a script based on her memoir, allows every detail to register its odd placement before moving on. Each scene fluidly transitions into the next and gives the picture a rhythm. And Ozon, ruthless to the finish, waits for Marceau to hover over the film’s last line, then cuts her off.
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