While struggling to write his next novel, Thomas (James Franco) accidentally hits and kills a young boy when driving along a secluded winter road. Every Thing Will Be Fine follows the life of the three people affected by the tragedy: Thomas, and the boy’s family, which includes his mother Kate (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother Christopher (Jack Fulton and Robert Naylor).

The title should have been a tip off that everything is not fine with Wim Wenders latest film. When you start messing with the English language you need to have a good reason, and that is precisely what Every Thing Will Be Fine does not have. In fact, the whole thing is such a muddled mess that fine would be too generous an adjective to describe it—to find anything good about it would be a minor miracle.

It’s a film trying to make a grand statement about human resilience and how people can survive trauma. Instead, we are treated to a film that relies on clichés and tired inspirational sayings that somehow manage to become even less meaningful within the context of the film. It doesn’t help that each line is delivered with a total lack of conviction by the cast. James Franco seems bored and Charlotte Gainsberg is uninterested. Rachel McAdams is the only one exerting any effort, but what exactly she’s trying to achieve with her non-distinct accent is unclear. All involved come across as puppets just going though the motions instead of real flesh and blood.

The biggest failure of Every Thing Will Be Fine is its inability to capitalize on subject matter that is ripe for the emotional manipulation of the audience. Between the moody artist motif and the death of a child, there should be some tugging of the heartstrings—even if it’s of the paint-by-numbers kind. However, Wenders’ direction is so aimless and unfocused that there is nothing but a feeling of emptiness. And that’s what the final product amounts to—an empty story, with empty people. The result is closer to a scientific experiment instead of the attempted psychological examination of the effects of trauma on artists and their work.