Everything Went Fine ****
Starring: Sophie Marceau, André Dussollier, Géraldine Pailhas, Charlotte Rampling, Grégory Gadebois
Director: François Ozon
One often hears people say that if they lose their faculties in old age they would prefer to be “put out of their misery”. The reality is that euthanasia and assisted suicide remain one of the biggest taboos and most contentious issues around. Illegal in nearly all countries, the question of what we would do if presented with a desperate plea to die from a loved one living in constant agony is one that nobody could truly comprehend until put into its position. But that’s exactly what we witness in the new drama from François Ozon (8 Women, Potiche, By The Grace Of God), starring Sophie Marceau (Braveheart, The World Is Not Enough, L’Étudiante) and based on the memoir of novelist Emmanuèle Bernheim.
When Emmanuèle (Marceau) and Pascale (Pailhas - Don Juan DeMarco) arrive at the hospital following their father’s stroke they find him (Dussollier - A Heart In Winter, Same Old Son, The Officer’s Ward) half-paralysed and in agony. As they readjust to his new life, both sisters are horrified when he suggests helping him to end his life. Once the shock subsides and he remains insistent of his wish, Emmanuèle finds a clinic in Switzerland that will perform this final service for him, but with the practice totally illegal in France, enacting his will proves much harder than any of them had anticipated.
In a classically French drama exhibiting superb hyper-realism, Ozon is level-headed in what could have been an emotive heart-string plucker. There is no over-sentimentality here, with Emmanuèle a pragmatic lead intent on ensuring that her father, André, gets what he wants. “There’s no point in refusing him anything,” she says often, with the patriarch a strong and opinionated force of nature, even when confined to his hospital bed.
André is no victim, too. An art connoisseur who has lived a full and refined life, he is a gay man with an embittered wife (Rampling - 45 Years, Duel, Melancholia) and a dubiously psychotic lover (Gadebois - Angel & Tony, An Officer And A Spy). His relationships with his daughters are close and he’s a well-liked and respected gentleman with everything to live for. But once the decision has been made, he is insistent that his time is over, even though he gradually begins to get better.
The moral quandary at the centre of the narrative is huge, yet this ethical dilemma isn't actually at the centre of the story. Despite multiple reactions of horror from peripheral relatives, it's actually the logistics of arranging his death that takes centre stage. Legally, this is a minefield, with both sisters running the risk of significant jail-time for their role in assisting his death. And with the doctor at the clinic unsettlingly saccharine, you can't help but feel ill-at-ease with the shady process they must go through, ducking police, lying to paramedics and following legal advice to the letter.
The stakes of the film's final act are high and Ozon captures the tenacity of this adeptly. The first hour does drag its feet somewhat, but when it gets the wind in its sails, it has the same urgency as a Ken Loach film, albeit with much wealthier subjects. When presented with the clinic's steep price tag, André's "How do poor people manage?" is a difficult line to stomach, as is the somewhat clichéd depiction of rich Jews. However, the truth of Emmanuèle Bernheim's history is sprinkled all over this impassioned film, which gives an authentic and compelling face to euthanasia and its moral conundrum.
UK Release: 17th June 2022 in cinemas and VOD, released by Curzon