Movie Review: ‘All Is Forgiven’

Review by James Lindorf

Few people can claim that their life hasn’t been impacted in some way by addiction. It doesn’t have to be your addiction, with nearly 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 12 actively suffering; it could be a family member, friend, co-worker, or peer. No matter how far removed, the impact can always be felt. Movies tend to glamourize or demonize addiction, and many of us know a horror story or two. We also know life isn’t always as dramatic as presented on film. In her confident and sensitive debut, “All Is Forgiven,” director Mia Hansen-Løve proves that you don’t have to turn it to 11 to make an emotional story about addictions tearing a family apart. Initially released in 2007, “All Is Forgiven” is making its way to American theaters for the first time. It will begin at Metrograph in New York City on November 5th before expanding two weeks later on November 19th.

In 1995 Victor (Paul Blain) was living in Vienna with his partner, Annette (Marie-Christine Friedrich), and their young daughter, Pamela (Victoire Rousseau). Victor usually worked as a teacher while waiting for his career as a writer to take off. Currently out of work, Victor is floating through life, numb to everything but Pamela. The only thing that brings him joy other than the little girl is his heroin addiction. We join the picture with Victor and the family on the verge of crisis. Despite the passing of time and changes in location, they are unable to shake their problems. After a domestic and personal breakdown, Annette and Pamela leave Victor behind in Paris to search for his next score while they seek stability. After an 11-year time jump, Hansen-Løve shifts the film’s focus to a now-adolescent Pamela (Constance Rousseau). She is again living in Paris and attempting to sift through the wreckage of her parents’ relationship and mend fences with a father she barely remembers.

Addiction can be devastating to your health and ruinous to your relationships but time and life marches on. What happens to a family that won’t be defined by an illness? What repairs can be made during and post-recovery? Does time heal all wounds, can all be forgiven, or is it just a dream conjured up in a drug-addled mind? These are the central questions to Hansen-Løve’s exploration of families and addiction. The journey will be different for everyone, and this is Pamela’s. As a little girl, she is mostly decoration to adorn the background of scenes between Victor and Annette, a reminder of what hangs in the balance. As a 17-year-old, she gets to make her own decisions about having a relationship with Victor but offers little beyond that. She is undecided in picking a major at uni and seemingly has little opinion on anything else. The story is less about reaction and more focused on introspection. Little is spelled out for the audience, so it requires your full attention to decipher how the characters are feeling and to have a chance at predicting what they might do next.

“All Is Forgiven” is essentially a game of hot potato where instead of a spud, they are passing along sadness. When the film opens, the sadness belongs to Annette as she comes to terms that the man she loves and shares her life with is not who he used to be. Once they leave, the pain takes hold of Victor as he struggles to wrest control of his life from heroin and get back what he lost. In the final act, the hurt finally settles on Pamela as she comes to terms with what she missed out on while growing up. Even though she has little to no memory of how bad things were at the end of her parent’s relationship. There is a constant buzz of impending heartache that could shatter a young woman’s life depending on the form it takes.

“All is Forgiven” requires either a theatrical experience or a disciplined watcher. Once you pick up your phone, the illusion is broken, and any connection to the characters will be lost because they don’t do anything to pull you in. This is about watching their experience unfold, not feeling like you’re a part of it. The beauty is in the simplicity of “All Is Forgiven.” Unfortunately, general American audiences may find “All Is Forgive” too simplistic and wonder why they needed to see an accurate representation of everyday life. Especially one without a satisfying emotional conclusion. If you are into character study dramas or foreign films, “All Is Forgiven” is for you. If you need the intensity and the larger-than-life delivery, maybe you should check out the Mia Hansen-Løve curated selection of cinematic influences, playing exclusively at Metrograph.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.