Ah, François Ozon. He’s like that local artisan whose atelier you walk past and hope that he never retires or shuts up shop despite the fact that you don’t necessarily shop there. For Ozon is a true craftsman, quietly fashioning exquisite pieces that are beautifully made, long lasting and highly polished.
The French director is in Cannes in competition with Tout s’est bien passé, a very French tale focussing on a middle-aged woman Manue (Sophie Marceau) dealing with her aged and difficult parents with the aid of her sister. The story opens with author Manue seated at her desk when she receives a phone call from her sister Pascale (Géraldine Pailhas): their irascible and tyrannical father André (André Dussollier) has had a stroke and is in the hospital. It transpires that dad is a bit of handful and his daughters are in thrall to him, always doing his bidding. Mum (Charlotte Rampling) is suffering from dementia and has battled with depression. The parents appear to live completely separate lives while not actually being separated. The reason for this will transpire later on in the story.
When Manue’s father recovers, he becomes increasingly determined to end his life, turning to Manue to help him on this venture. While this sounds like high drama and super intense, fear not, for this is also a highly enjoyable comedy, mainly thanks to Dussollier who might just win a prize for his hugely entertaining performance that he sinks his teeth into with relish. When he finds out how much it coststo use the Swiss suicide service, he exclaims ‘But how do the poor manage?’ to which his daughter replies: ‘They have to wait’. And when he discovers his son-in-law is organising a Bunuel retrospective, he asks: ‘Which is the film where they kill the beggar? I liked that one’. He is a monster, but a wickedly funny one, and he knows it.
Marceau and Pailhasare very believable sisters, clicking together in their scenes, both metaphorically and literally, for we often see them entwined and interlocked, re-enacting decades-long rituals. They are complicit, loving and long suffering. Yet despite everything, they truly love their terrible father.
In fact, this story, based on Emmanuèle Bernheim’s autobiographical novel, is all about love. It’s about the different ways one can love and how forgiveness and acceptance of one’s parents can be cathartic and healing. And of course the film deals with the important question of euthanasia and quality of life for the elderly, which is no laughing matter. It’s good to see Marceau in such fine form, amply supported by an excellent cast, but this is really Dussollier’s film.