Just before Adrian Pirvu was born, his mother traveled from Romania to Ukraine on a business trip. Unfortunately that was just when the nuclear accident in Chernobyl struck, exposing both his mother and Adrian to radiation. As a result, Adrian almost lost his eyesight entirely. Doctors were able to save one eye, though. Now an adult, Adrian starts looking for people who are suffering similarly from long-term effects of the disaster. He finds Ukranian Helena Maksyom whose spine causes her problems and chronic pain. As they work on the documentary together, tracing Chernobyl’s lasting effects, the two fall in love.
Totul nu va fi bine is an usual film, and a surprisingly personal one. While it is a bit of a pity that the actual Chernobyl disaster takes a backseat to the relationship of the two filmmakers, there is something precious about the resulting film.
I went into Totul nu va fine bine expecting a kind of reckoning with Chernobyl and its effects that are still very much present in the area. I think that’s also the film that Pirvu and Maksyom had started to make. But this quickly gets overshadowed by their personal relationship with each other – first falling in love, and then falling out of love again.
This personal angle makes the film much softer than you’d expect from title and topic, and a whole lot more intimate. They use voice-over to talk about their relationship, adding another layer of intimacy through their reflections. Though, admittedly, it’s mostly Pirvu’s reflections, making it look like he was more involved in finishing the film even after the break-up (as it was his project in the start).
They do meet other people who were affected by Chernobyl, and they go on a tour through the area, Geiger counter in hand. But ultimately this is just a back-drop for their relationship that is at the heart of the film. This personal perspective is both a gift and a missed chance to talk about nuclear power and its risks.
It gives the film a bit of a messy atmosphere that is underscored by the partly very self-made aesthetics of the images. But it’s a mess that contains a tender core that wouldn’t have worked in a more polished film.