Everybody Knows

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem in Everybody Knows - opening film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival
"The uncertainty is like a necklace of seaweed, tighter than a noose." | Photo: Memento

Laura (Penelope Cruz) lives in Buenos Aires with her husband and teenage children. When her sister in Spain announces her forthcoming marriage, they decide to attend the ceremony. It’s a big trip for the family and for Laura a step back in time.

Nostalgia, with its painful memories and missed opportunities, hardly makes a meal. Paco (Javier Bardem), the love of her younger life, will be there and her father looking so much older and new wives and relatives of every age and shape. What’s next? What will happen? Bad conversations? Secrets uncovered? The resurrection of feelings? Sadness laid bare?

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Irene happens. Laura’s daughter disappears, followed by a kidnapper’s note demanding a heap of money and a warning that if they go to the police they won’t see her again. The film’s change of direction is unexpected. Emotions are raw now. Paco takes charge. Laura watches and waits and follows. Tension mounts. Wedding plans continue. Secrecy creates a dangerous silence.

Everybody knows about Paco and Laura, what changed, how things broke all those years ago. What now? Is there more to Irene’s disappearance than the simplicity of a kidnap scenario? Laura’s husband has the looks of Paco but not the personality. Financially he is locked in a sorry place. Laura is desperate and so puts what’s left of her faith in her once and forever true love.

Emotionally the film rides wild ponies with Irene. You don’t know how she is or where she is. The uncertainty is like a necklace of seaweed, tighter than a noose. It would be simplistic and sentimental to search for clues amongst the once fertile memories of Laura and Paco. Nothing comes easy and nothing comes on time. Somewhere there is a conclusion. The writers raise a plank above the debris of confusion. You know nothing except that life will not be the same if there is a life and the same is where we started.

The film is clever like a snake. The performances are selfless and underscored. No one takes advantage. There are only possibilities and a future that glows. At the centre of their fear is the body of a girl. In the heart of their belief is an understanding of different journeys. This calls for a crusader or an interpreter. The choice is yours.

There is a shadow over the moon. Their lives are in shade. The film ends as a thriller even if it starts somewhere else.

Reviewed on: 08 Mar 2019
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Secrets resurface after a woman returns to her family's village for a wedding.
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