2019, R, 132 min. Directed by Asghar Farhadi. Starring Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darín, Eduard Fernández, Bárbara Lennie, Carla Campra, Inma Cuesta, Roger Casamajor.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 22, 2019
As Everybody Knows opens, wedding preparations are underway in a small Spanish village. Laura (Cruz) arrives with her two children, and suddenly what had been a sunny and joyful scene grows more radiant and buoyant with her presence. It’s a return to the home she left years ago for Argentina and her husband (Darín), who is unable to attend (for reasons we will later discover). The first half of the film is a charming swirl of introductions and reconnections, gaiety and drink. A multitude of family members and other characters dash in and out as we try to keep track of who everyone is and how they are connected. We feel very much a part of the commotion.
About an hour in, however, the film changes course and the celebration gives way to a kidnapping plot. Laura’s flirtatious teenage daughter Irene (Campra) disappears from her bedroom and it’s clear she has been snatched. For help recovering her daughter, Laura turns to Paco (Bardem), her former lover who has also married someone else. Paco and his wife (Lennie) own a vineyard, which resides on land sold to him by Laura’s family. Many are the kidnapping suspects and reasons for the abduction, primarily the presumed wealth of Laura’s husband and the ransom he might afford. Things from the past continually bubble to the surface. And what everybody knows isn’t always the truth.
Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (winner of two Best Foreign Language Film Oscars for The Salesman and A Separation) revels in telling stories marked by moral quandaries and social pressures. These forces in Everybody Knows, however, seem more manufactured than essential. This is not the first time Farhadi has worked outside Iran, so the cultural difference isn’t sufficient to explain the lower-seeming stakes in this film. As much as Farhadi tries to imbue the story with gravitas and conundrums, the film is really a basic whodunit. Nevertheless, it’s as fulsome a pleasure to watch Penélope Cruz bite her lip and cry buckets over her daughter’s fate as it is to watch her smile widely and bewitch all comers with the mere twinkle in her eyes. Everybody Knows is not Farhadi’s best work, but he does deliver an affair to remember.