Everybody Knows, the latest film from acclaimed Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi is set in Spain and stars the power couple of Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem. Cruz plays Laura, mother to a young son and teenage daughter, returning to her hometown for her sister’s wedding. We are introduced to Laura’s family gradually including her mother, father, second sister, and other family friends.
On a kind of parallel timeline we are also introduced to Bardem’s character Paco, who is married with no children and is a land owner who grows grapes to make wine.
As the wedding approaches we find out that Laura and Paco have some history and were at one time quite the hot item, but Laura left home and Paco behind.
The wedding festivities are like you’d imagine a hometown wedding to be with guests getting properly sloshed but all in good fun. Earlier Laura’s teenage daughter Irene is getting friendly with one of the local boys and she shows a kind of mischievous edge to her personality, even asking the boy to hide away on vacation with her.
At the wedding Irene is partaking in alcohol and cigarettes as the party patrons are destructed by the festivities. At some point Irene feels ill and is led to her room to sleep it off.
It’s here where the film really kicks in as Laura checking on her daughter discovers she is not only not in bed but not in the house. In her place are left only news clippings of another young girl that was kidnapped some years before. Laura feverishly searches for her daughter as it is now late, dark, and raining fearing the worst. It should be noted that Laura’s husband did not make the trip and is unaware of all that happens.
With the assistance of her family, especially Paco & family friend Alejandro, they try to piece the whole puzzle together, questioning everyone from the outsider photographers to the boy that Irene was getting friendly with.
What follows is a sort of unraveling of secrets and thrown suspicions of who would do this and what is there to gain?
The second half of the film is where the story and acting really shine. Much like an Agatha Christie mystery we start to suspect everyone, slowly learning that the motives for the kidnapping are linked to a ransom.
Is it Laura’s father? An alcoholic who has struggled with his business and resents that the whole town used to work for him and believes that they all still owe him. Maybe it was Laura’s husband who’s also having financial troubles and was conveniently absent for the trip. Could it be Paco’s wife who doesn’t understand why her husband is so involved in finding the kidnappers and maybe believes Paco never got over losing Laura? As each segment develops we are left with more and more theories and loose threads in this smartly woven thriller.
Farhadi does excellent work building momentum in the story with all its twists and turns, as well as getting great performances from not only Cruz and Bardem but the cast as a whole.
Often films like this, those mired in mystery and intrigue, often fall foul of deus ex machina style revelations or on the opposite end of the scale, the revelations were obvious and signposted along the way. Fortunately Everybody Knows gets by without being too flashy and complicated but remains intriguing throughout and the ending, which I won’t spoil, is wholly satisfying.
Economical in its use of a cast where everyone has a key role to play, no matter how insignificant, it’s also fun and smart. Farhadi is consistently delivering solid films and building quite the resume and Everybody Knows is yet another strong string in his bow.
Film ‘89 Verdict – 8/10
Everybody Knows is on general theatrical release in the U.S. now and is released in the U.K. March 8th.