Everybody’s Fine is one of veteran actor Robert De Niro’s “finest” moments. There are those who have already had their say of this atypical holiday family film. But odds are the people who have lambasted it have done so because it is indeed such a mirror image of reality that they don’t want to have to admit how real it is. The story centers on widower Frank (De Niro) who recently lost his wife. Having been married for over four decades, Frank is heartbroken after the loss of his wife. How she died isn’t immediately revealed. Nor is it important how she died. It’s the psychological and emotional impact on Frank that makes this story so believable.
Frank’s emotional and psychological response to having lost his wife is so real in that as much as people may not want to admit it to themselves, his reaction is very much the same as any older person with adult children. He reaches out for support from his now adult children. Although in his mind, he’s just trying to get his kids together at least one more time. As he sets off to surprise his kids, audiences learn that Frank spent most of his life helping to set up the telephone lines that criss-cross the country. It’s these lines that eventually play a metaphorical role in that while he helped put up the lines, it’s those same lines that his own adult children use to keep a painful secret from him. They’re keeping the secret not to be mean, but to protect their father purely out of love and respect for him. That secret is the basis of the real story in Everybody’s Fine.
The real story of Everybody’s Fine is less about Frank’s relationship with Amy, Rosie and Robert and more about his strained relationship with his other son, David. The relationship between David and Frank had been strained ever since David was a boy. Writer/Director Kirk Jones hints at this through flashbacks that Frank has during the course of the movie’s roughly ninety-minute plus run time. While Frank obviously loves his kids, it’s David that he’s really focused on. He wants so badly to see David; so much so that as audiences hear the conversations between Frank’s other children over the telephone wires he helped put up through his career, it makes them feel that much more for Frank. As much as his relationship with David was seemingly strained, Frank still loved David unconditionally, just as any parent would their own child. Again, it’s that mirror image of real life that helps maintain the story’s relateability.
The story between Frank and David does have at least a somewhat happy ending. Though perhaps bittersweet would be the better suited term to use here. But there is closure for both figures nonetheless. And it’s that closure that leads to an ending that wraps everything in its own deeply moving gift to audiences. Everybody’s Fine is not the standard happy-go-lucky movie that audiences might think of when they think of holiday movies. But its deeply emotional story about family makes it a holiday movie that stands out among the crowd even today as it has been re-issued on blu-ray. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct via the Lionsgate online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com.
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