The Movie Waffler Dublin International Film Festival 2019 Review - EVERYBODY KNOWS | The Movie Waffler

Dublin International Film Festival 2019 Review - EVERYBODY KNOWS

everybody knows review
During a wedding, a teenage girl is seemingly kidnapped.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Asghar Farhadi

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darín, Carla Campra, Eduard Fernández, Bárbara Lennie

everybody knows poster

One of the most acclaimed of Iranian cinema's many feted auteurs, Asghar Farhadi returns to Europe once again, following his French set 2013 drama The Past. This time Spain provides the setting for Everybody Knows, a psychological thriller bolstered by Spanish acting's first couple, Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem working at the top of their game.

Cruz plays Laura, who returns from Buenos Aires - where she has lived for the last 16 years with her Argentinian husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darín) - to her hometown in rural Spain to attend her younger sister's wedding with her teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra) and young son Diego (Iván Chavero) in tow. Also in attendance is Laura's former lover Paco (Javier Bardem) and his wife Bea (Bárbara Lennie).

everybody knows review

The night of the wedding, Laura goes looking for Irene, but can't find her daughter anywhere. Later she receives an anonymous text from someone claiming to have kidnapped the girl, warning Laura not to go the police and await further instructions. Left on Irene's bed is an ominous selection of newspaper clippings relating to a previous kidnapping that occurred in the same area five years ago; one which didn't have a happy outcome.

Over the next two hours, Farhadi affords this thriller the same depth of characterisation as we've come to expect from his relationship dramas like his Oscar winners A Separation and The Salesman. Farhadi unfolds his story as though peeling away layers of an onion, gradually revealing backstories that cause us to suspect almost everyone, even Laura herself, of being the culprit behind the kidnapping.

everybody knows review

At first it seems the kidnapping has been motivated by a false portrait Laura has painted to her family of her life in Argentina. Far from the wealthy businessman his Spanish in-laws believe him to be, Alejandro has been unemployed for the past two years, his past alcoholism leading him to bankruptcy. The only real hope for raising the ransom demanded lies with Paco, who debates selling the patch of land he purchased from Laura's family. This unearths class tensions, as Laura's father (Ramón Barea) is resentful of Paco, once the son of his servants, and now having made a success of the land (where grapes are grown for a local vineyard) in a way he was unable to. Still harbouring feelings for Laura, Paco gives this idea considerable thought, much to the chagrin of his wife, who for some unknown reason has been drawn into the intrigue by receiving texts from the kidnapper.

The collection of Spanish speaking actors assembled by Farhadi here makes for one of the most impressive ensembles of recent years. Cruz has had better roles, but this might be her finest performance, her movie star looks crumbling gradually as the drama draws out with no happy ending in sight. As Paco's pragmatic wife, Lennie (a relative unknown to international viewers) is a revelation, her character one of the few beacons of sense in this unfortunate affair. She's something of a tragic figure, her tough veneer masking her realisation that she may not be her husband's true love. In a small role as a retired policeman who offers professional assistance and casts suspicion on Alejandro, José Ángel Egido is so watchable you might find yourself wishing his character gets his own TV series.

everybody knows review

Speaking of TV, Everybody Knows does feel like a very well made HBO drama, but Farhadi packs as much character development and plot twists into two hours as most prestige TV dramas might over a full season. It's in its final 15 minutes that Everybody Knows lets itself down with an ending that plays like a rushed afterthought, and the movie ultimately rolls its credits at a point where the story is about to take a turn into arguably even more intriguing territory.

Everybody Knows is in UK/ROI cinemas March 8th.

2019 movie reviews