Film review: ‘EVERYBODY KNOWS’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Kidnapping drama Everybody Knows sees an impressive confluence of talent with esteemed Iranian director Asghar Farhadi at the helm and a cast led by Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. The film often lives up to the promise offered by this dream team but a little too frequently slips into soap operatic drama.

Cruz plays Laura a mother of two who travels from Argentina to her hometown in Spain to attend her sister’s wedding. During the riotous celebrations Laura’s teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra) disappears, apparently kidnapped. Warned not to contact the police, the family struggle to work out a response and as panic and suspicion take hold, painful family wounds are reopened.

Asghar constructs this film in similar fashion to his acclaimed previous works such as The Salesman and A Separation. He establishes the scenario in a restrained realistic manner – the early wedding scenes are almost like cinema verite – before switching to a darker and more intense style as the film transforms into a crime drama.  Unfortunately, in the film’s second half he at times diverts from the comfortingly honest approach of his previous works.  While the mystery of the young girl’s disappearance is intriguing and the threat to her life unsettling, Asghar infuses the story with slightly cliched romantic and family drama. The film often focuses on Laura’s relationship with life-long friend Paco (Javier Bardem) and a revelation about them could have come from TV soap. Consequently, Asghar doesn’t explore the characters’ psychology or the impact of the prevailing culture as effectively as he did in a film like A Separation.

Still, with such fine actors as Cruz and Bardem as well as Barbara Lennie who plays Paco’s wife Bea and Ricardo Darin who plays Laura’s husband Alejandro and who appeared in the terrific 2014 Spanish film Wild Tales, it would be very hard for the film not to grip our attention. The entire cast and in particular Cruz and Bardem, deliver believable and nuanced performances and extract as much feeling and compelling drama as we could expect given the script.

Lensed by long-time Almodóvar cinematographer José Luis Alcaine, the film looks stunning and provides striking images of the rugged landscape and wine regions around Madrid.

Everybody Knows isn’t the masterful collaboration between supreme talents for which we might have hoped but its best moments are still remarkable.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2

Genre: Family drama/ crime.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Asghar Farhadi.

Release date: 7th Mar 2019.

Running time: 132 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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