Based on the homonymous film by Giuseppe Tornatore, “Everybody’s Fine” hides a number of social remarks regarding today’s China in a family drama that takes place all over the country.
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Guan Zhiguo is a retired geologist, a widower and a father of four, who lives by himself in a Chinese Quadrangle in Beijing. One day, as he is expecting all of his children and their families to visit, he receives subsequent phone calls from each one of them, canceling the meeting. Not having anything in particular to do, he embarks on a trip to the four cities they live in, without informing them of his visit.
His first stop is in Tianjin, where his youngest son, Guan Hao is living, but he cannot find him. The second is in Hang Zhou, where his daughter Guan Qing is living with her family of three, although there seems to be much friction between her and her husband. Next stop is in Shanghai, where his eldest son Guan Quan has sublet the house his parents have bought him in order to start a company dealing with the teaching of the Chinese language to foreigners. His last stop is in Macau, where his youngest daughter Guan Chu lives, a dancer since childhood. However, another surprise waits for him there also, along with the news of his younger son.
Zhang Meng retains a mellow and kind of happy-go-lucky style throughout the film, despite a number of dramatic scenes. This tactic is implemented by Guan Zhiguo’s attitude, who sees the problems his children have, but does not speak out, in a “Chinese style parenting”, that only finds a way out during his encounter with his elder son. In that fashion, Zhang Meng avoids the reef of the melodrama, as he retains a measured tone throughout the film, which focuses on realism, with a few dramatic and a few humoristic scenes providing the necessary brushes of entertainment.
However, underneath this “mellow” base, Zhang Meng does not shy away from presenting a number of issues that “torment” the contemporary Chinese society, with each place/child representing one of them. Guan Hao, as an idealistic young artist, struggles to understand how the real world works. Guan Qing has a successful career, but so does her husband and this creates a gap between them, since none seems to have time for both each other and their child, whose life and wishes are neglected. Guan Quan tries to become rich by indulging in the world of startup companies, where going to extremes to achieve profits is the rule. Lastly, Guan Chu represents the LGBT issues, with the fact that she leaves the furthest away from home being a testament on how secretive her life has to be.
All of these four aspect, art, marriage, capitalism and LGBT are surrounded by the concept of family and how it can function in the contemporary, ever-changing world. Through the combination of the above, Zhang also highlights the generation gap, as the father is unable to understand and fathom most of his children’s choices.
Zhao Fei’s work in the cinematography department is remarkable, in a very difficult task, since the film features a plethora of locations in the different cities, occasionally functioning as a tour guide. Zhao Fei manages to capture images of extreme beauty in all the locations, both in the interior and the exteriors, all of which are impressively colored. Kong Jinlei’s editing is also excellent, with him retaining a great pace through the changing settings.
Zhang Guoli as Guan Zhiguo gives a performance that is the personification of the film’s style, as he acts with dignity and a distinct sense of measure, while the only scene where he acts out is equally competent. The only issue with him is that he appears too young to be a grandfather. The second performance that stands out is that of Yao Chen as Guan Qing, who highlights a character that struggles to appear happy and content, but fails to do so. Also worthy of mention is the cameo of Jia Zhangke as a gangster in Macau.
“Everybody’s Fine” is a very entertaining and rewarding movie that manages to combine family drama, social comments, and a tour guide in a visually impressive package.
“Everybody’s Fine” is released by Cheng Cheng Films