Editor’s Notes: Everybody Has a Plan opened in limited release on March 22nd. If you’ve already seen the film we’d love to hear your thoughts on it, or if you’re looking forward to seeing it this weekend, please tell us in the comments section below or in our new Next Projection Forums.
Invoking from its opening the overarching metaphor of Spirit of the Beehive, debut director Ana Piterbarg’s Everybody Has a Plan chooses an appropriate influence for its exploration of identity—both individual and communal—within the context of violence and conflict. It stars Viggo Mortensen in his fourth Spanish language role—and first set and shot in his childhood home of Argentina—as twin brothers Augustín and Pedro, respectively a well-to-do city doctor and a criminally-inclined beekeeper residing still in the village of the brothers’ youth. Their shared history, unspoken between them when Pedro arrives in Augustín’s apartment after years of estrangement, forms the backbone of Piterbarg’s investigation of the very constitution of uniqueness.
Mortensen creates with the combination of his brooding demeanour and hispanophone fluency the calibre of performance that acts as steady foundation on which his director can build their entire movie.
Ever the compelling screen presence, Mortensen creates with the combination of his brooding demeanour and hispanophone fluency the calibre of performance that acts as steady foundation on which his director can build their entire movie. Everybody Has a Plan is at its strongest when given the full benefit of that immense presence twice in the same scene, the early meeting of Pedro and Augustín fraught with tumultuous tension, tempers bubbling beneath the surface in such a way as to invest even the slightest gesture with a certain danger. Theirs is a relationship silently marked with the scars of conflict and—if their differing lives serve to suggest—opposing ideologies; Piterbarg makes of this fateful coming together an understated clashing of egos, twisting the subtleties of Mortensen’s facial expressions to a fascinating power play between the two men.
A strong performance, though, does not a strong film make, and for all the conviction with which Mortensen casts himself into the role(s), there’s nothing in either Piterbarg’s script or direction to fashion of his work a character study on the level it deserves. Effective in that elongated scene between the brothers, the film stumbles elsewhere in its efforts to use these characters as ciphers through which to explore issues of identity. Strangely, despite the definition of their relationship, they are individually little more than thinly-sketched caricatures; neither Augustín’s willingness to agree to his twin’s wish nor Pedro’s life— Augustín’s difficulty in adapting to which forms the bulk of the film—elucidated in particularly satisfying detail. Prone to cliché, from the overwrought movie cough from which Pedro suffers to the unremarkable romance into which Augustín intrudes, it’s a plot that neither engages to a meaningful degree nor sufficiently supplements its underlying themes.
Effective in that elongated scene between the brothers, the film stumbles elsewhere in its efforts to use these characters as ciphers through which to explore issues of identity. Strangely, despite the definition of their relationship, they are individually little more than thinly-sketched caricatures…
It hardly helps that the film largely serves as an inversion of Mortensen’s own role in A History of Violence, this willing immersion into an alternate life running parallel—albeit moving in an opposite direction—to the journey of Tom/Joey in Cronenberg’s film. To run so close to so superior a film is the sort of danger Everybody Has a Plan never escapes, its every turn earning comparisons to that more narratively and thematically mature movie. But it’s not solely through that first collaboration with Mortensen that Cronenberg’s shadow lingers over this film: his Dead Ringers, and the titanic performances of Jeremy Irons within, provided a key influence for Mortensen’s own work here, a fact which again serves to weaken this work by comparison. Irons’ is the definitive dual performance, the magnificent minutiae of his mannerisms drawing a distinct line between his two characters. Mortensen, by contrast, mishandled by an inexperienced director, offers only the same brooding character twice, the Augustín-Pedro divide portrayed only through the differing degrees of grey in their beards.
The emergent aimlessness of the film serves to render gradually more and more ironic its title; it becomes increasingly clear that, in fact, nobody here has much of a plan at all. Mortensen, caught without a script that gives him very much character to work with or a director that can effectively channel his energy, recedes into a default moodiness against which only he himself can effectively play. Piterbarg, though displaying some degree of visual panache in the waterside village in which she sets the bulk of the action, has less a fully-fledged story to tell than an idea to work with. Part dark drama, part overwrought thriller, part psychological study, Everybody Has a Plan is something of a capricious curio, an unfortunately unsteady effort from a talented group of people who haven’t quite figured out how to work together.
[notification type=”star”]52/100 ~ MEDIOCRE. Part dark drama, part overwrought thriller, part psychological study, Everybody Has a Plan is something of a capricious curio, an unfortunately unsteady effort from a talented group of people who haven’t quite figured out how to work together.[/notification]