Good but not great, Farhadi’s Spanish-language effort is rather too elaborate in plotting, but still serves up a largely engaging mystery with delectable performances.
Dir. Asghar Farhadi
2018 | Spain | Drama | 133 mins | 1.85:1 | Spanish
PG13 (passed clean) for some language
Cast: Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darín, Eduard Fernández, Carla Campra
Plot: Laura, a Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires, returns to her hometown outside Madrid with her two children to attend her sister’s wedding. However, the trip is upset by unexpected events that bring secrets into the open.
Awards: Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes)
Distributor: United International Pictures
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
(Reviewed at The Projector)
It takes a filmmaker who is confident of one’s own abilities (or simply bored with the status quo) to want to make a movie in another language in another country.
In the case of Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi, who made the likes of A Separation (2011) and The Salesman (2016), his first foray outside Iran was with the French film, The Past (2013), starring Berenice Bejo of The Artist (2011) fame. His late compatriot Abbas Kiarostami similarly made Certified Copy (2010) in France too.
In this context, the Spanish-language Everybody Knows, is not a new thing at all for Farhadi, though it is quite obvious that the film is of a different beast, certainly one made with a bigger budget, and in Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, the biggest stars that Farhadi has worked with at this point of his career.
Some might even argue Everybody Knows to be his most accessible film to date, though it is not a great one by any yardstick. It is, however, a decent effort that takes advantage on its elaborate plotting to mount a drama with mystery leanings. It takes a while for one to be hooked with a wedding setup that makes up what seemed like a third of the picture.
For the most part, Farhadi’s work is self-sustaining, with twists and turns that more or less keep audiences on their toes, though I suspect the film might have worked better with less complicated plotting and more mood-setting. Farhadi knows, perhaps too well, how to navigate the intricacies of storytelling, but at the expense of truly giving us a work of revelatory power.
Cruz plays Laura, a visiting member of her extended family who has flown with her children from Argentina back to her Spanish hometown for her sister’s wedding. Bardem’s Paco, a local who used to be in love with Laura decades ago, also shows up with wife in tow.
Everything is cordial until something untoward happens in the middle of the wedding that threatens to bring secrets out in the open, causing rifts amongst the various characters and old wounds to be revisited.
The delectable performances by the ensemble cast are top-notch, and is the key reason why the film still remains largely engaging throughout even when the narrative is bogged down by an overreliance on exposition and dialogue.
All in all, Everybody Knows is a watchable film by an experienced filmmaker who knows a thing or two about the fragility of human relationships.