by Charles Kirkland
Director asghar farhadi (The Salesman, A Separation) returns with a tale of love and loss with star power in Everybody Knows.
After a few years away, Laura (Penelope Cruz) returns to her hometown outside Madrid with her daughter Irene (Carla Campra) and son Diego (Ivan Chavero) for her sister’s wedding. Things have changed in the small town. Her father, Antonio (Ramon Barea), has gotten older and a little broken down (physically and mentally) and Paco (Javier Bardiem), her ex-boyfriend, has returned the family winery to prominence and glory. The church is still falling into disrepair which Laura and her husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darin) have sent money to help stave off its demise. During the reception for the wedding, Irene disappears, supposedly kidnapped and the family falls into turmoil.
Writer and director Asghar Farhadi creates a tense and deep cinematic experience in this movie. The film captures emotion and allows it to engulf the viewers. This is a story of love and loss and tells a story of how some secrets no matter how well they are attempted to be kept, can never be. Once a secret so integral to life is revealed, it can lead to ultimate destruction. In that way, the film is a modern day fable on the level of Grimm or Aesop displayed beautifully (or horribly) to be seen. The movie is delicious to the eyes and tragic to the soul.
Farhadi is known for creating cinematic masterpieces. He has been nominated for an Oscar and this movie was nominated for a Palm d’Or at Cannes Film Festival. In the past he had worked with actors and actresses of lesser known until this film and while we have appreciated the work, it is sheer pleasure to have him work with such consummate professional as Bardiem and Cruz. While their tortured performances are at the center of the movie, the entire cast is stellar in the performances. Farhadi packs emotional power into every scene and shoots each one to get the most out of each person in the frame. No one is wasted nor is any shot.
But there is a reason why this movie did not win in Cannes. The pacing of the movies is appropriate for communication in this movie. The movie itself is way too long. Understandably, Farhadi has given us deep and thorough character development in the film but a good thirty minutes could be shaved off to make the movie move effectively and concisely. There are too many scenes of the same despair in the movie which does more than reinforce the emotions, it comes across as a little over-dramatic and threatens to bore the viewers.
It is incredibly striking to see the life and joy that Farhadi introduces in the beginning of the movie and how it is literally and figuratively washed away by the end of the movie. The family who came to Spain so vibrantly is replaced by a hollow soulless shell that leaves and can never return. This is not Asghar Farhadi’s best work but it comes close.
Rated R for some language, Everybody Knows (Todos lo Saben) is a piece of cinematic art, a freefall of emotion that plumbs the fragility of family. In Spanish with subtitles.