Everybody Knows

***

Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem in Everybody Knows - opening film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival
"While Farhadi certainly knows how to spin a web of intrigue, deceit and suspicion, the narrative has a tendency to leap from strand to strand, often leaving the audience stumbling in its wake." | Photo: Memento

The Iranian film-maker Asghar Farhadi is no stranger to family conflicts having won Oscars for his Iranian dramas A Separation and The Salesman as well as accolades for The Past (made in France with Berenice Béjo and Tahar Rahim).

For Everybody Knows he works in Spanish for the first time with two eminently watchable actors Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, who carry the narrative along even when it flags.

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The Farhadi themes erupt after Laura (Cruz) returns to Spain after years in Argentina for the marriage of her younger sister (Inma Cuesta) to Joan (Roger Casamajor). She is with her teenage daughter (Carla Campra) and young son (Ivan Chavero).

She receives a typically warm family welcome in a small village, with her ageing father (Ramon Barea) who used to own land, and a family friend Paco (Bardem) among those lining up to greet her in an assorted collection of friends, siblings and in-laws.

The first part of the film unfurls at a leisurely pace until various secrets and under-currents begin to emerge. It transpires that Laura and Paco used to be youthful sweethearts and there is dispute about the sale of the vineyards tended by Paco, a successful wine grower.

Then the tensions ramp up during the wedding celebration when Laura’s free-spirited teenage daughter goes missing, seemingly abducted. Demands for a ransom materialise while the frantic search for the missing girl provokes even more introspection, guilt, accusations and skeletons in cupboards among the family members. There is even a question mark over the girl’s real father.

While Farhadi certainly knows how to spin a web of intrigue, deceit and suspicion, the narrative has a tendency to leap from strand to strand, often leaving the audience stumbling in its wake. The sense of mystery and the ultimate denouement is not nearly sharply focused enough while the material straddles uneasily the space between family drama and abduction thriller.

It remains for Cruz and Bardem and the rest of an impeccably cast collection of actors to carry it along to the final resolution which, when it comes, seems unnecessarily rushed in comparison to the ambling pace of the earlier scenes. From a filmmaker of Farhadi’s talents, there is more than enough here to keep you lightly intrigued but it’s at the expense of being more emotionally engrossed.

Reviewed on: 09 May 2018
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Secrets resurface after a woman returns with her family's village for a wedding.


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