Director: Kirk Jones
Starring: Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale
In cinemas: 26th February
Oh dear – what to say about Everybody’s Fine. Before I went into the cinema it was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining with the first semblance of warmth we’ve had this year: the first morning of spring. I was thinking of having a look around the shops afterwards and maybe buying a new dress, spending the last of my Christmas money. When the film was over, I wanted to hurl myself into the Liffey.
The story features Robert De Niro as a retired widower with four grown-up children who all live far away and don’t talk to him much. When they all cancel a weekend visit to their dear old dad, he decides to get on a bus across the country to surprise them. His kids are not as happy and successful as they had let him believe, however, and there are a lot of unresolved issues about their childhood.
Unfortunately, despite the interesting plot and a top-notch performance from De Niro, this film is a wall-to-wall misery fest, depressing from the off and going downhill from there. The most disappointing thing is that many of the elements are very good. The acting is superb – not just from De Niro but his adult children played by Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale. We don’t see enough of them though – just the rough elements of their relationship with their dad. Much is left unsaid and it could have lifted the mood if we were let in a bit more to their lives. The characters and story feel realistic, but there’s more to a good film than realism.
Bereavement, aging and death are all very real, but I don’t want to spend two hours having them rammed in my face – it was like the Ludovico technique from A Clockwork Orange, but instead of violent films being forced down my eyeballs, it was pure concentrated depression. Sad films can be enjoyable but you need some sort of payoff: an uplifting resolution, a meaningful message, or at least a good cry. I think the final message of Everybody’s Fine was to be more honest with your family but I’d basically lost the will live by then.
In a Nutshell: If contemplating suicide and trying to gather the courage to jump, this is the movie for you. Otherwise use the money to buy something cheerful, like a ticket to a different movie.