For the first 45 minutes of “Everything’s Fine (We’re Leaving),” everything is indeed looking fine thanks to terrific performances from the femme thesps and an appealing juxtaposition of sophisticated humor and darker pathos. But dramatic tension comes close to unraveling in the second half of this Gallic pic about three sisters’ difficult relationship with their father, and the film stumbles with a lackluster conclusion. It remains a solid fest title and will generate interest in its home territory but is unlikely to make much of an impact on non-Franco turf.
Before the unexpected and mostly unwanted arrival of their long-lost father, sisters Laure (Miou Miou), Beatrice (Sandrine Kiberlain) and Claire (Natacha Regnier) are not faring all that badly. They live close to each other in Lyon, and, though they have the usual sibling arguments, the family bonds are tight.
Laure, the oldest, takes care of the family home and runs a dance studio that specializes in tango instruction. She is also the single mother of an 8-year-old daughter. Beatrice, the most well-off financially of the three, is busy trying to persuade younger sister Claire to move into a more upscale apartment.
Claire, the family rebel, has no interest in leaving her small, darkly lit digs. She spends her time hanging out with wacko performance artists and isn’t above bringing a live chicken home for dinner.
Everything is shaken up when their father, Louis (Michel Piccoli), suddenly arrives on the scene. They haven’t heard from him in 15 years, and all three have some serious issues to work through regarding his absence. Claire, the most sympathetic toward the prodigal dad, immediately invites him to stay with her.
Part of the trouble in the second half is that scripter-helmer Claude Mourieras doesn’t fill in enough blanks about this unsettled family. It’s not clear why Claire is so much more willing to forgive than her two older sisters or why Beatrice is ferociously angry.
Even more problematic is that pic gives the father no redeeming qualities; not only does he try to take advantage of his daughters, but he’s cruel to his pre-teen granddaughter and never attempts to apologize for ditching his kids. So when he begins exhibiting Alzheimer-like symptoms, it’s hard to be moved.
The disappointing nature of pic’s late going is heightened because there’s so much to like early on. The sisters are finely drawn, Mourieras displays a deft comic touch, and pic captures a sense of real-life female camaraderie not often seen on the bigscreen.
All the leading thesps shine here, particularly the three main women. Miou Miou gives Laure real depth, creating someone who’s having trouble dealing with life’s responsibilities but still has the spark to kick off a romance with one of her tango students.
Kiberlain is equally believable as an upwardly mobile type and an angry daughter. In the most richly layered role, Regnier is a striking presence whether playing tender or hysterical. If Piccoli is less impressive, it’s only because he is cornered in a less-than-nuanced part.
Mourieras keeps things low-fi, with almost no music other than Claire’s piano playing. Lensing is equally no frills.