by Ronan Watters


Ronan Watters explores the nuanced portrayal of alcoholism in Dan Rush’s 2010 film.


Everything Must Go is not a perfect film. It could even be argued that it is not a film that looks at the horror of alcoholism with much depth. But for some reason after I saw it, I could not stop thinking about it. Like Leaving Las Vegas, this film focuses on a character who has lost everything due to his alcoholism. Unlike the former film , in which the main character is a suicidal screenwriter drinking himself to death, Everything Must Go offers a more hopeful message. The film still looks at the destruction that drink can bring upon an individual and both their personal and professional life. Everything Must Go thankfully avoids clichés in an effort to tell a story of how one man’s life swiftly falls apart and how he attempts to get some semblance of himself back on track. The film first caught my attention when I saw it featured on a list of films about alcoholism. The website it was featured on was for an addiction centre that treats people with various issues, including alcoholism.

The reason the film lingered in my head was that it did not portray the main character Nick, played to great effect by Will Ferrell, as a raging drunk, but more so as a man with a problem, whose ways have finally caught up with him. Nick has lost his job and his wife due to his drinking. Locked out of the house by his wife with his belongings strewn all over the front garden, Nick obtains a three-day permit to have a lawn sale to sell all his possessions. As I mentioned, the film does not show Nick getting completely wasted to hammer home the point that he is an alcoholic. Instead of drinking himself into oblivion throughout the film, he only has a couple of beers while constantly bemoaning the state his life is in, which results in a more nuanced performance from Ferrell. Along the journey he befriends both his new, pregnant neighbor Sarah and a young boy named Kenny, who watches over his things. From there we learn more about Nick and his problem with drinking, like the fact he was six months sober before relapsing. What strikes me about the film and a lot of stories concerning addiction is that Nick is a good, decent man, which is the most heartbreaking thing about the film. People unfortunately tend to stereotype alcoholism and the people afflicted by it, especially here in Ireland, where a person with a drinking problem is labeled as someone who is “fond of a few drinks”. 

We could go on about the nature of the drinking culture in Ireland until the sun disappears forever from the sky. As I write this, St Patrick’s Day is only around the corner, a national holiday that has unfortunately become synonymous with drinking and people disgracing themselves on nights out in Ireland. Now, I’m not standing on a self-righteous soapbox shouting about the evils of the can, I love a drink, I love a few in fact and I’ve most definitely disgraced myself on a handful of occasions. Unfortunately, I see in some of my friends the dangerous seed of a drinking problem being buried deeper into the ground, with every drop of alcohol consumed watering it down. A film like Everything Must Go was a breath of fresh air for me. The main character is not some superhero, or someone born on the wrong side of life, he’s just a normal bloke with a problem.