Everything Will Be Okay (Alles wird gut, 2015)
Directed by Patrick Vollrath.
Starring Simon Schwartz and Julia Pointner.
A divorced father picks up his eight-year-old daughter Lea. It seems pretty much like every second weekend, but after a while Lea can’t help feeling that something isn’t right. So begins a fateful journey.
“Intense and well told. An exceptionally well performed and touching film that captivates from the first second to the last.”
That’s what Michael Haneke said about Patrick Vollrath’s short film Everything Will Be Okay. Haneke is arguably the greatest director working today, so that’s probably worth listening to.
He’s also Vollrath’s former lecturer at film school, so that’s probably also biased.
Michael (Simon Schwartz, not the Haneke kind) is a divorced father collecting his 8-year-old daughter Lea (Julia Pointner) for the weekend. He spoils her, going for her favourite fast food, instigating carte blanche at a toy store (not just one, but two Playmobil sets) and riding the bumper cars for an entire afternoon. She’s tremendously happy…a joy that only makes Michael’s strange urgency all the more disconcerting.
The hints are dropped steadily – a passport photo taken here, a hidden mobile phone there. Their innocent day out becomes an abduction. One character knows what he’s doing from the outset. We realise slightly later. Sadly, the one most affected understands last.
Vollrath’s style is stripped down. The only music is traffic outside a hotel window or the hum of an air conditioning unit. The camera stays so tight on Michael and Lea that the closeness almost becomes clumsy. Their performances stand up to the scrutiny. Schwatz is an experienced actor. He knows the game. Pointner, however, is 8 years old. That’s extraordinary.
The plot is thin – a divorced father trying to flee the country with his daughter – but then so is the running time. Ten minutes of building tension and five of crescendoing desperation. No-one is the bad guy. The situation is.
Oddly, the impact comes from the exact opposite style of Vollrath’s old lecturer Haneke. The Austrian auteur keeps people at arm’s length, the camera painfully static, his subjects across the room or over the street. His protegé, however, runs head first into his characters, blurring bodies and surroundings in uneasy panic. You end up empathising with everyone onscreen. You might not agree with Michael’s approach – hell, one of the most beautiful parts is when even Michael doesn’t agree with Michael’s approach – but you still empathise with him.
Opposite styles, maybe; the teacher and student aesthetics apart. Yet they achieve the same effect – claustrophobic, escalating brilliance.
You can listen to my interview with Vollrath here, where we talk having Haneke as a teacher, Abbas Kiarostami popping into class and watching Unfriended on a plane.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★