Everything Went Fine review – wonderfully observed story of assisted dying

André Dussollier and Sophie Marceau are outstanding as a father and daughter whose tricky relationship is upended when he asks for her help to die

François Ozon has brought a tremendous understated confidence and artistry to this very affecting film about euthanasia and assisted dying. There is a robust unsentimentality here, encapsulated by the throwaway gesture in the title itself, leaving us to decide what it exactly it is in the end which has gone “well”. And the final shot of a dead person, the supremely difficult moment to bring off, is haunting in its lack of emotional affect.

André Dussollier, the veteran French character actor, plays André, a wealthy and socially well-connected retired industrialist (late in the film, he will ask his daughter if she has remembered to bring his Legion of Honour ribbon). In his late 80s, André suffers a stroke and the vigorous, handsome but cruelly sharp-tongued man that we see in flashback is reduced to a sad state in hospital: his face and right eye sagging. He is regularly visited by his daughter Emmanuelle, or Manue, played by Sophie Marceau (and based on the author of the original autobiographical novel, Emmanuelle Bernheim). She is patently his favourite, despite her agonised memories of his cruelty towards her when she was a girl. He certainly seems much closer to Manue than to his other daughter Pascale (Géraldine Pailhas) and indeed his ex-wife (played by Charlotte Rampling) who is herself consumed with her own ill-health and utterly unmoved by her ex-husband’s woes.

As for Manue, she once nurtured fantasies in girlhood of killing her nasty old dad. So it is supremely ironic that it is to her that he makes his final, imperious request: she must organise his euthanasia. This means she has to liaise with the relevant Swiss organisations and set up semi-clandestine arrangements with the lawyers so they don’t get sent to prison.

And as the weeks and months go by, André seems to be getting better, more interested in life, and Manue is hoping against hope that he will simply forget about this assisted dying business. Yet the film shows us that André’s morale is only improving because he assumes the release of death is near. But for Manue there may be no release – and by inadvertently granting her that awful childhood wish, his cruelty now has a new ingenuity. The situation brings us into contact with André’s angry and wounded former partner Gérard (Grégory Gadebois) and the down-to-earth Swiss woman who must carry out the process, played by Hanna Schygulla.

To André’s dismay, the whole thing is to cost 10,000 euros. “How do poor people manage?” he asks, to which Manue replies grimly: “They wait to die.” Could it be that this whole final scene in the final act of André’s life is just another example of his wealthy entitlement, his arrogance. After all, the film shows us that he is not in unbearable pain and the quality of his life has not diminished catastrophically. He has just had enough; and has no intention of discussing it, debating it, or coercing our consent by being emotional about it.

And in its way, this film has precisely the same attitude. Another type of drama would put the issue-led handwringing at the centre of things. Not this film. It is just the hinge on which the family drama turns, and the performances from Dussollier and Marceau are quietly outstanding.

• Everything Went Fine screened at the Cannes film festival on 7 July.

Contributor

Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Between Two Worlds review – Juliette Binoche goes undercover in the gig economy
Emmanuel Carrère’s drama – based on Florence Aubenas’s bestseller Le Quai de Ouistreham – fails to probe fully the injustices faced by low-paid workers

Peter Bradshaw

07, Jul, 2021 @8:30 AM

Article image
Paris, 13th District review – Jacques Audiard’s sexy apartment-block anthology
Audiard brings his typical visual fluency to this entertaining collection of interlocking stories about characters hooking up in the 13th arrondissement

Peter Bradshaw

14, Jul, 2021 @10:16 PM

Article image
Drive My Car review – mysterious Murakami tale of erotic and creative secrets
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi reaches a new grandeur with this engrossing adaptation about a theatre director grappling with Chekhov and his wife’s infidelity

Peter Bradshaw

14, Jul, 2021 @11:49 AM

Article image
Under the Sand review - mysterious drama of denial
An intriguing film about grief and emotion, with Charlotte Rampling as an academic whose husband goes missing on holiday

Peter Bradshaw

20, Apr, 2001 @1:16 AM

Article image
La Fracture review – gilets jaunes fable breaks under weight of its metaphors
A lovelorn woman lies in a Paris hospital as violent protests rage on the streets. It’s all very symbolic … but is it any good?

Peter Bradshaw

09, Jul, 2021 @9:38 PM

Article image
Petrov’s Flu review – feverish tale of a pandemic and societal breakdown
Kirill Serebrennikov’s prescient and audacious but oppressive drama is set in a post-Soviet Russia in the grip of a flu epidemic

Peter Bradshaw

15, Jul, 2021 @11:40 AM

Article image
'A flesh-and-blood lion of French cinema' | Peter Bradshaw on Bertrand Tavernier
The director was a prolific and legendary figure, making films in a dizzying range of genres from crime to sci-fi, satire to jazz

Peter Bradshaw

25, Mar, 2021 @6:36 PM

Article image
Here Awhile review – assisted-dying drama weighed down by cliche
In a tale that veers between mawkishness and levity, a woman diagnosed with cancer heads back to her home state where euthanasia is legal

Phil Hoad

07, Dec, 2020 @2:00 PM

Article image
Our Men review – Rachel Lang delivers an unadorned tour de force
Anxiety and instability stalks the private lives of French foreign legion soldiers in this restrained and hugely poignant drama

Peter Bradshaw

15, Jul, 2021 @9:17 AM

Article image
Martin Eden review – Jack London’s thrilling tale of hollow success
This Italian adaptation of London’s 1909 novel follows the ascent of a proletarian novelist to popular success which proves a bitter disappointment

Peter Bradshaw

08, Jul, 2021 @6:00 AM