What if one day you woke up and your four closest friends had all committed suicide? How would any sane young man react to such a circumstance? Josh (Maxime Dumontier) faces just that problem in the Canadian film Everything Is Fine, one of the strongest films I saw at the 2008 Melbourne International Film Festival.
What Josh does is wander around being sullen and ignoring the grief of others. He certainly won’t listen to his parents or the psychologist his school brings in to help him process his experiences, but he does find some shared comfort with Mia (Chloe Bourgeois), the ex-girlfriend of one of his mates and sexy young thing. Perhaps through her determination to move forward with her life Josh may also let go of the past.
Everything Is Fine focusses very clearly on the experience of its lead character Josh, contributing to the sense that his experience is more important to him than anyone elses. Were Dumontier’s performance to waiver the whole film would fail, and it is with some skill that he brings Josh to life and encourages the audience’s empathy. He is aided, however, by the fact Josh is so wrapped up in his own internal world, allowing Dumontier the freedom to spend much of the time being brooding and surly. Bourgeois’ Mia comes as a stark contrast to Josh, with a vivacity and aggression that threatens to steal all the audience’s attention. She has far more asked of her character, being required to transition through grief, anger, delight and pleasure, and she manages each emotion with ease.
The film moves relatively slowly, taking its time to establish its world and Josh’s place within it. The pacing is a strength, allowing the impact of the rather horrendous events to sink in before encouraging the audience to follow the hero as he recovers from them. Adding to the running time is the use of flashback that is interwoven with the present and goes some way to explaining Josh’s behaviour.
Writer/director Yves Christian Fournier keeps some information rather close, such that the ending may surprise many. By this time, however, Fournier will have skillfully examined the effects of the decisions of these children on their loved ones.
Although Everything Is Fine is a dark experience, it is a worthwhile discussion about the effects of suicide on those left behind. That the leading performances are so strong and there is a wicked punchline just make it easier to endorse.Rating: