Starring Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Ricardo Darín, Eduard Fernández, Bárbara Lennie
Two-time Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi (“The Salesman, “A Separation”) returns with big stars in his first Spanish-language film “Everybody Knows.” It received a lukewarm reception at Cannes and I can see why. The suspense thriller starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem feels less socially important than Farhadi’s previous work. That said, “Everybody Knows” is his most accessible film to date. There are a lot of characters to keep up with and there are moments when the performance and drama lean toward the melodramatic. The title itself ends up playing a big role in the audiences’ perception of the events and clues, as well as its double meaning.
Laura (Cruz) and her children arrive in her little hometown outside Madrid for her sister’s wedding. There is a lavish old-school celebration with dancing and partying, but before the evening is over, Laura’s teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra) goes missing. They finally conclude she has been abducted after finding a newspaper clipping from an old abduction case on her bed. Laura frantically calls her sick husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darin) who is still in Buenos Aires, and they discuss whether or not to call the police. Laura’s friend and former flame Paco (Bardem) offers to help, even offering to sell his land to pay the ransom. In the midst of uncertainty, bad blood between the family and Paco arise that sheds light on the disappearance.
There will always be those that find foreign films less than appealing, but the Iranian filmmaker employs riveting techniques to sustain interest in his two-hour mystery.
Who is everyone and what do they know? That’s the question the viewer will be asking as this mystery plays out. “Maybe it wasn’t a stranger,” the family keeps suggesting, including a private investigator who shows evidence this was planned far in advance. These small nuggets of information elevate the suspense as the plot moves forward. There will always be those that find foreign films less than appealing, but the Iranian filmmaker employs riveting techniques to sustain interest in his two-hour mystery. Here it’s the family drama and not-so-hard-to-guess secrets that play out while they deal with the disappearance. One of the movies’ downfalls is making a few things a bit too obvious and on the nose.
The structure of “Everybody Knows" isn’t too far off from Denis Villeneuve’s "Prisoners." However, this one never goes that dark and doesn’t focus on the performances as much as it does situational suspense. I found the performances from real-life couple Cruz and Bardem both honest and realistic. It might not be the most interesting puzzle to figure out, but it does have a satisfactory ending as far as these genre-type films are concerned. I found the camera work and editing to be of Farhadi's usual excellent standards and this film could earn him yet another spot among the five foreign film selections.
Asghar Farhadi inches ever so close to mainstream cinema and delivers a compelling abduction drama.