CANNES, France – To commit suicide is a weighty and personal matter, decency would have one take care of this business all on their own, without notifying anyone, let alone get several people to help you organize your sign-off party. But this is just what Monsieur Bernheim (France’s eminent actor André Dussolier) asked of his two daughters, Emmanuelle (Sophie Marceau) and her sister (Geraldine Pailhas) after suffering a debilitating stroke, with more such events predicted by the doctors. Once a captain of industry, then an art collector, because of his illnesses he is now bed-ridden and reliant on others for even the most basic of activities.
Director Francois Ozon (“The Swimming Pool”) has directed quasi-perfectly this mature adaptation of an autobiographical book written by one Emmanuèle Bernheim, in which her father asks her for the same favor. Ozon, in the past, showed a strange predilection for showing a kind of sadism in his actors, the warped side of humans, and the mind games they play with each other. Here there is none of that, a little sibling rivalry notwithstanding. It’s just two families organizing themselves around the death wish of an old man who has lived a full life, turned gay somewhere along the way and cannot pretend like tomorrow’s just another day under his new debilitating regime.
What struck me about this film, before all else, was how well cast it is. Marceau, who any Generation X Frenchman will remember for her turn in “La Boum,” in the eighties, as the favorite daughter, Dussolier who plays the aging homosexual to a T (again, Dussolier, one of France’s top-tier actors), Charlotte Rampling as the acid, and slightly lost, ex-wife, “with her heart made of ciment,” or so says her ex-husband (she does suffer from a form of Parkinson’s).
Hanna Schygulla plays a former judge now part of an association that fights for the right to euthanize, helping to bring patients to Switzerland where that it is legal. The sisters meet with her to manage the travel and intake paperwork.
I’ve noted a couple of strange things, things that the filmmaker puts in his film you but you wonder why, as they add nothing. Emmanuelle has some issues with occasional blurriness. At some point she adds drops into her eyes. There’s no follow-up with this for the rest of the movie, and I could not derive any meaning out of it. In another scene, after Emmanuelle storms out of her father’s hospital room in anger after an unpleasant exchange, she goes to the gym, hitting a punching bag while her coach eggs her on. This much is clear, Sophie Marceau has never boxed in her life. That much is clearer: there was no prep for this scene.
A couple of flashbacks are shown, when Emmanuelle was young. Her father (Dussolier, playing a younger version of himself), was every bit the contemptible and violent father, which easily leads Emmanuelle to answer her sister in present-day, “Yes, I wished him dead when a kid—but not anymore.”
“Everything went fine” is thus far one of my favorite films of this still-very-young Cannes Festival.