Asghar Farhadi’s spanish language debut is an incredibly enigmatic and suspenseful film. Critically steered by the star studded ensemble, Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem lead the pack, which itself is to die for. It the family-centric nature of caring, confusion and desperation that gives life to this kidnapping story.
This is a film that oozes with confidence and control, unlike many films with kidnappings there is little violence and it mainly internalised. You see the pain seeping out of the characters as Irene (Carla Campra) disappears in a some-what supernatural-type way.
We open in a Spanish village as Laura (Penélope Cruz) and her family return for a big family wedding. She brings her two children, including her teen daughter Irene (Carla Campra) and her son. Irene is told a secret, “everybody knows” about her mother and Paco (Javier Bardem), that they were once deeply in love (P+L). Amid the reunion and festivities, Irene is abducted. In the tension-filled days that follow, tensions rise and hidden secrets are revealed.
I have a soft spot for Spanish language films, as Pan’s Labyrinth is my favourite film of all time – but Farhadi’s direction is completely unique and stylised in the very unstabilised vision of this world created. It has elements that film-goers will be perhaps familiar with, there is a touch of Coppola’s direction in The Godfather. The narrative is cleverly crafted, it builds suspension through characters and visuals by leaving questions and not favouring heavy exposition.
The film lies between a balance of melodrama and crime, it is sophistically executed and yet the plot is nicely simple, which allows the film to flow smoothly. You will be left questioning and theorising similarly to a whodunit as to who committed this crime? With this there is this growing sense of uncertainty and it reels you in as the spectator.
Everybody Knows is personal and real, and that’s what makes it work. The confidence and assured nature of Farhadi’s vision shines on a deeply true level through the magnificent ensemble.