Everybody’s Fine is a remake of the film Stanno Tutti Bene by Cinema Paradiso director Giuseppe Tornatore, but the original is almost impossible to get hold of in the UK. This American remake however comes from a British director, Kirk Jones (Waking Ned, Nanny McPhee). The story is a family drama revolving around Frank (De Niro), a father of four now grown-up children who has just lost his wife and is struggling to cope with the loneliness her death has left him with. After his children all cancel on a family reunion he has been looking forward to he decides to go and surprise each of them by visiting them as he undertakes a trip travelling all over America. However none of them seem able to make time for their lonely father and spin webs of lies to make his impromptu visits as short as possible for them. Meanwhile they are also keeping secrets from him as to they try to uncover the whereabouts of one of their siblings, artist Jack who suddenly disappeared.
De Niro plays the part of a caring father very well and presumably chose to make the film as he is a father of five himself. The emphasis on family and its bonds in Everybody’s Fine enables us to see a much more real and caring side of De Niro than the comedic father he play in his previous films such as in the Meet the Parents series. However there are also some great moments of comedy here but also some very sad and poignant moments as Frank is obviously aware his children are lying to him and the film can easily be compared to the Japanese emotional family drama genre film most aligned with the films of Yasujiro Ozu. Rockwell, Beckinsale and Barrymore as Franks children all play their parts well and they all come together well to create a realistic portrait of a family united both by love and by secrets.
One of the films most interesting devices, which is a new element director Jones added from the original, is the use of telephone conversations as a plot structure. Before he retired Frank worked coating outdoor telephone wires with PVC coating. Not only is this important to the films plot – as he worked very hard at this to give his children opportunities he did not have they feel he pushed them far to hard and lie about their own success to please him – but there are also frequent audio clips of the children conversing on the phone about their father and missing brother. The shots of telephone wires are perhaps over repeated a little but this is a fresh way of introducing conversations onto the cinema screen by mixing into the films plot and is a very nice touch from Kirk Jones. There are a few other moments where the film breaks away from being a conventional Hollywood story, most explicitly in the use of fantasy dream sequences. When Frank is with his adult children he sees them still as children as child actors take their place, and in one major dream scene later when the lies all start to unravel Frank confronts these young children rather than the adults themselves.
Everybody’s Fine is a heart-warming family story that is pleasant, comic and touching to watch. The films only flaw is the ending which was re-shot after test screenings to be much more resolutionary. This is something that Americans seem to need more and more but European audiences much more used to brief and ambiguous endings will feel the ending does drag out far too long.
Everybody’s Fine Trailer