Director: Asghar Farhadi
Starring: Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz
Everybody Knows is clearly an exercise of great passion for everyone involved, but will it stand the test of time? While I enjoyed Asghar Farhadi’s latest, I am not terribly optimistic the answer is in this film’s favor. This is my first foray into Farhadi’s work, and while it makes me want to explore what critics are calling his “better” films, this one left me in no complete rush.
Everybody Knows takes place outside Madrid, and its photography is one of its finest selling points. Its location is lush and picturesque, which only adds to the disquiet and unsettling nature of the actions to come. Penelope Cruz plays Laura, a woman who, with her teenaged daughter Irene (Carla Campra) and her young son in tow, visits a small villa for a wedding, reuniting with her childhood sweetheart Paco (Javier Bardem) in the process. In the set-up and even in the earlier sweetness of the meet-and-greets, you can feel a sense of tension between Paco and Laura and her family.
Then, on the night of celebration, Irene suddenly disappears from her room, whereas kidnappers send threatening texts, demanding a ransom. They say if they go to the cops, they’ll kill her immediately. And naturally, she doesn’t have her inhaler with her, narrowing the time frame even more. This causes the psyches and emotions of the characters to unravel, in a web tangled by secrets and things left unsaid. People question their trust and loyalty in one another, as well as the love they receive from each other.
This is more a film about tradition and first love than it is one about the disarray of a kidnapping. Everyone suspects one another, but that’s not where Farhadi’s fixations lie. They lie more within the dynamic between Bardem’s Paco and Cruz’s Laura. Married in real life, these two actors show a certain intimacy onscreen that is difficult for even the best of actors to emulate, especially when portraying characters who are married to separate people. Everybody Knows depicts the rough parts of certain relationship-based therapeutic measures through the guise of a kidnapping story, with all the breakdowns and distrusts that come with it.
Unfortunately, the film does seem to be bogged down by unnecessary amount of characters and repetitive nature. Paco will have the same conversation with three or four different people before he has the one that really seems to count, and by then we’re less invested. This film is 132-minutes long, and could’ve easily been at least 20 minutes shorter. By the time the culprits and their plan are revealed (in a way that feels shoehorned at the last second), a small part of us just wants the film to wrap up. And there are so many characters with so little depth and investment. The cast list could’ve easily been severed and the film would be no different.
Despite its flaws, this is an enjoyable film that transcends the genres of thriller, drama, and romance in ways that are mostly seamless. I still strive to see films like A Separation and The Salesman. I just hope those films are more consistent to Farhadi’s reputation.