Everybody's Fine (2010)

26 February 2010

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Everybody's Fine follows Frank Goode (Academy Award-winner Robert De Niro) who has spent his adult life working in a local wire factory earning every dollar he can to support his family. Recently retired, he realises that over the years he has spent too little time with his four children and that it’s time to reconnect.

Franks' late wife was always his main point of contact with his kids but he decides that it’s now his responsibility to keep an eye on them. He is inspired to invite the whole extended family for a barbeque weekend. Preparations go well until one by one, such is modern life, they all have good reason to cancel. Despite a strict warning from his doctor, Frank takes matters into his own hands and packs a bag before setting out on a journey across the US with the intention of surprising each of his children and wallowing in their success and happiness. Based on 'Stanno Tutti Bene' originally written and directed in the Italian language by Giusepee Tornatore in 1990, Everybody's Fine stars Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell. The film was written and directed by Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine, Nanny McPhee).

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"When someone says they’re fine, you can guarantee they’re not"

Everyone has a favourite parent.  It probably started when you were a kid – there was always one parent you knew would be a bit more lenient on you, who would spoil you.  It probably wasn’t one way traffic either – if you think about it, it was likely to be the same parent that you spoke to when girls or boys came on the horizon, the one that you turned to for advice when things got a little complicated.  Being ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ or a ‘Mummy’s Boy’ is a bond that will likely last for the rest of your life.

The danger with this, is that whilst you assume you’re close to your both parents, in reality you’re only close to one of them.  This is the problem that has hit Frank Goode (played by Robert De Niro).  After losing his wife, he realises that he is very much alone – he knows very little about his four children, and all attempts to get them round one big table fail.  For the rest of the film, we follow Frank as he travels all over America, attempting to re-connect with his kids, before the inevitable meal around the table results.

Whilst the above may sound like a recipe for a feel good family film, ‘Everybody’s Fine’ is in fact really rather depressing.  Not only do the children have no meaningful relationship with their own father, but their own father is incapable of seeing them for the adults they are, such was his isolation from them growing up.

Despite the rather sombre subtext, I actually enjoyed ‘Everybody’s Fine’.  De Niro is excellent as Frank, detached not only from his family but also from the 21st century.  Credit should go too to the director Kirk Jones, whose cinematography adds real poignancy to the film.  Definitely worth a watch – just make sure you’ve called your parents – BOTH of them – before you get in.

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