Everything Will Be Okay

Everything Will Be Okay [2015]

Everything Will Be Okay/ Alles Wird Gut [2015] is a 30-minute short film from German director Patrick Vollrath. This film follows Michael Baumgartner (Simon Schwarz), a divorced father, as he picks up his daughter Lea (Julia Pointner) for their weekend together. Things go as they should until they don’t as Everything unfolds into a distressing journey to remember.

Jusqu’ici Tout Va Bien… Everything is an engaging half-hour and easily passes as a successful proof-of-concept piece for a story that could be worth developing into a feature length film. This is best evidenced by Vollrath’s economy of storytelling where the camera and characters are always showing, but not telling. Every scene and detail serve a purpose, and yet, the hints leading up to the main event never feel contrived or heavy-handed. Being a story that is bisected by a revelation, the success of Everything is perceptible in the ‘before and after’: The sense of unease that we feel before the main event comes into focus and makes full sense once we realize what is happening. The earlier scenes thus retroactively take on more sinister tones upon reflection. Part of this has to do with patterns and repetition: Michael and Lea embrace several times, but the context of their embraces shifts drastically from beginning to end. The eponymous phrase “everything will be okay” is uttered twice and by the second time it is spoken, we know that, in fact, everything will not be okay. This short has the makings of an engrossing psychological drama and it will be interesting to see what Vollrath does next.

Silence Is Better Than Bullshit… Equally noteworthy is Vollrath’s confidence in his craft. For a film dealing with intense emotions, Everything is completely void of music. While music can add quite a bit to a film when used well, it is also no secret that non-diegetic music is often an emotional cue. It’s a testament to Vollrath’s confidence in tone management that he chose to go with a pared down, realistic soundscape and entirely avoid a cheesy, tear-jerky soundtrack. Being a short film, one might wonder whether this decision is due to a budgetary constraint or is it really confidence in craft? I’m actually unsure; but, I would hazard a guess that there are enough musicians making evocative music that if Vollrath wanted a soundtrack on a budget, he wouldn’t have too much trouble finding one. Either way, sound—or sometimes lack thereof—is used to great effect. This is best demonstrated in a scene where Michael is trying to make haste and the sense of urgency is, in part, conveyed by the frantic rhythm of one specific set of diegetic noises.

Pictures > Words… Another bold decision in Everything can be found in the camera’s refusal to shy away from the raw emotional performances delivered by Schwarz and Pointner. When things come to a head, the camera doesn’t let up: it doesn’t pull out to wide angle or cut frantically from shot to shot to distract from how uncomfortable the situation is. Instead, the camera stays closely, almost claustrophobically, fixed on Michael and Lea daring its viewers to endure the tension. In short (no pun intended), this film affords Vollrath the opportunity to showcase thoughtful camerawork. It is apparent what a keen eye he has for composing impactful images that service both the characters and the story. For instance, at one point, through the framing of negative space and vertical lines, the setting forms a visual cage around Michael simultaneously commenting on both the situation and the psychology of the character. If directing is, as the Coen brothers say, about tone management, then Vollrath is on the right track.

But Words Are Important Too… The dialogue in this short exhibits a verisimilitude that seems to be partly born of improvisation. It is probably for this reason that Pointner, as little Lea, speaks quite naturally. When her father inquires about her school play, she divulges the details in cryptic drips and drabs as many children often do when they awkwardly try to piece together their thoughts. Schwarz and Pointner collaborate effectively as father and daughter, each skillfully delivering an interpretation of helplessness that is enthralling yet unembellished.

Modest but packs a big punch.