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Film Review: Everybody Knows

Director:    Asghar Farhadi

Cast:    Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darin, Eduard Fernandez, Bárbara Lennie, Inma Cuesta

Rating:    M

Running Time:    132

Australian Distributor:     Universal Pictures Australia

Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem star in the tense psychological thriller that opened this year’s Cannes competition, from the two-time Oscar-winning director of A Separation and The Salesman, Asghar Farhadi. Revered Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman, The Past, A Separation) makes another foray into European co-production with this riveting Spanish-language thriller, transplanting the director’s preoccupation with familial tension and moral dilemmas to the fertile terrain of international melodrama.    

Real life couple Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem are very fine in Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s latest. Laura (Cruz) and her two kids travel from Buenos Aires to her hometown of Torrelaguna (north of Madrid) for the wedding of her sister, and while there are smiles and celebrations much is left to quietly simmer in the background. She soon runs into Paco (Bardem), a farmhand who co-owns the local vineyard and who’s, of course, her ex, although he appears to hold no grudge against her for leaving him. For now anyway.

Bea (Bárbara Lennie), Paco’s wife, believes her husband when he says that there’s no longer anything between him and Laura, and Laura’s frail father Antonio (Ramón Barea) is also a constant concern, as he’s always ready to sling aside his walking sticks and fight his old enemies. And they’re only two of the many characters that swirl around in the build-up to the wedding, which proves a success until it’s discovered that Laura’s teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra) has been kidnapped from one of the bedrooms and is being held for ransom.

Instructed not to go to the police (that would spoil the plot, after all), the family members (still clad in party outfits) sit around wondering what to do and where to find the money while, naturally, the stress and tension begins to bring out the worst in everyone.

For a film supposedly lacking in political edge, there’s an awful lot going on here about class, social standing and religion, especially when Laura’s fairly hopeless husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darín) turns up late in the action to talk infuriatingly about God. And then there’s the intense exploration of difficult families in difficult times, something that carries over from Farhadi’s Iranian films and proves just about as powerful and disquieting here.

Asghar Farhadi’s Spanish language debut is an incredibly enigmatic and suspenseful film. It’s a film that oozes with confidence and control, unlike many films with kidnappings there is little violence and is mainly internalised.


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