Directed by: Asghar Farhadi
Premise: A teenage girl is kidnapped in the midst of a rural wedding in a vineyard community outside of Madrid. As her family awaits instructions, old secrets and longstanding animosities percolate to the surface.
What Works: Filmmaker Asghar Farhadi is most interested in characters and family relationships. Those themes run through his work and Everybody Knows lends itself to his talents. The kidnapping of a teenage girl unveils the secrets and grudges held by an extended family and the story includes a complex web of human relationships. This story and Farhadi’s filmmaking style offer the actors plenty of room to explore their characters and the movie has some exceptional performances by Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem and Ricardo Darín. Cruz and Darin play the parents of the kidnapped teenager and their marriage is riddled with discontent and economic stress. Cruz’s character was once romantically linked to a viticulturist played by Bardem and their scenes together are underscored by an affectionate subtext. Everybody Knows is well shot by cinematographer José Luis Alcaine. The visuals aren’t ostentatious but Alcaine uses light and shadow especially well. The filmmakers capture the flavor of this rural Spanish town and Everybody Knows has an organic look that gives the film an appropriately gritty feel.
What Doesn’t: Asghar Farhadi’s filmmaking style is not geared toward sensationalism. He stages and shoots scenes very plainly and does not use a lot of obvious editing techniques or dramatic music. That approach works for the kinds of films Farhadi usually makes, which are typically observational domestic dramas like A Separation. But Farhadi’s style undermines this material. Everybody Knows is about a kidnapping with a threat of further violence but the inherent dramatic weight of the premise is absent from much of the film. There’s no urgency. The movie is quite languid and in a way that kills tension rather than drawing it out. Everybody Knows is too long. The film takes its time getting to the kidnapping and once it does, very little actually happens. A lot of the middle portion of the film consists of the characters confronting each other about family secrets that no one is all that secretive about. There are a few key reveals late in the story but they are pretty obvious well before they are unveiled to the audience. If this is supposed to be a thriller, it just doesn’t play that way.
Bottom Line: Everybody Knows mismatches Asghar Farhadi’s filmmaking style with a story that needs a more deliberate hand. There are a few good performances here and the family drama is interesting but the kidnapping plot is under dramatized.
Episode: #741 (March 17, 2019)