18 May 2008 | Art_Zee
A thoughtful, engaging look at the aftermath of suicide
Anyone looking for a "feel good" movie that cheer leads about the glories of living should take a pass on this one, but fans of films that take a more realistic view of life, one in which issues are examined and discussed but never fully settled will find much to appreciate in Tout est parfait (Everything is fine). One of the highlights of the film for me was that it showed one of the most honest depictions of teenagers I've seen on screen--there are characters representing various "types" of personalities, but they are not limited to narrowly-defined roles. Just like in real life, the personalities in the film are diverse and often contradictory.
The movie begins with lead character Josh, a member of a close-knit group of young men who hang out together, discovering that he's the only of the five who hasn't killed himself. While everyone around him treats him as an object of pity or curiosity, Josh himself insists that he is fine (hence the title) and is capable of taking care of his own feelings, disengaging from his parents and being actively hostile to the psychologist they insist he sees. Josh's actions belie his words, however, as he struggles to form a friendship with the father of one of his friends and develops a budding romance with the former girlfriend of another. When he's not with one of them, he can be found wandering the town contemplating his lost friends in flashback scenes that reveal the personalities of his friends and the nature of their friendships a little bit at a time.
There are many fine performances and memorable characters in the film, but perhaps the strongest character is Mia, the girl Josh seems to be falling for. She offers Josh love and acceptance, but she also challenges him with remarkable strength, courage and grace, ultimately inspiring Josh to realize that he's not the only one who hurts, but he's the only one who can make his own choices for himself.
Overall, the film is excellent, but I do have a few minor criticisms of it. The movie's pace is quite slow, which works well after a certain point, but at least for me the first ten minutes or so dragged on very slowly. Josh's tactiturn personality makes it hard to feel much for him at first which makes a film seen primarily from his point of view a bit of a struggle to get into. At about the 20 minute mark the film really picked up and more than made up for that first bit, but it is worth noting that it takes a while to warm up to it.
The flashback scenes are well played, but the transitions in and out of them are often awkward; while I normally dislike films that waste a lot of time telling instead of showing, parts of this movie definitely could have been improved with just a bit of exposition. Still, despite its flaws, this is a great film well worth seeing.