Everybody Knows Review

Shooting outside of Asghar Farhadi’s native Iran for only the second time, Everybody Knows feels like the director is playing it safe, rather than enjoying his filmmaking freedom. Unlike fellow director Jafar Panahi, Farhadi is able to travel to and from Iran as he pleases, and despite shooting in sunny Spain with Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, he rigidly sticks to a well established formula. Compared to films like About Elly and A Separation, his latest follows a similar template that stays on auto-pilot for the most part.

With that being said, there’s no lack of craft to Farhadi’s direction, which immediately places us into the lives of two families living in a small Spanish village. Laura (Cruz) has returned home from Argentina to see her younger sister, Ana (Inma Cuesta), get hitched. While husband, Alejandro (Ricardo Darin), hasn’t travelled, she arrives with teenage daughter, Irene (Carla Campra) and younger son, Diego. On the outskirts of the village lives Paco (Bardem) with his wife, Bea (Barbara Lennie), who own and manage the local vineyard.

The real world relationship between Cruz and Bardem makes them a natural on-screen pair, and we learn that Laura and Paco were lovers when they were younger. It’s a past life that is pushed to the foreground when someone is kidnapped during the wedding reception. Soon enough, texts are being sent demanding money, and with no police involvement allowed, they go about trying to track down the perpetrator. The longer the person remains missing, the more family tensions rise and hidden resentments and secrets come out into the open.

What Farhadi never quite overcomes is the way he uses the kidnapping to prise open the family fault lines. The missing person has a huge significance on the twist in the final act but they remain out of sight for the majority of the film. Because of that, there’s very little to connect them to Cruz, which is essential to making all of this work. Although, don’t be surprised if you figure out what the big reveal will be very early on (which is a little ironic given the title)

While it may sound like a thriller, Everybody Knows remains true to the layered family dramas we have become accustomed to from Farhadi, while loosely resembling a traditional whodunit. There’s a large cast who are all strong (especially Lennie), and it’s easy to believe the weight of history held between the two leads. It feels a little long at almost 135 minutes, but despite its healthy runtime there’s not enough room provided to take in how the event changes the lives of everyone. Which is a shame, as this is the most intriguing part of the film, while the kidnapping tries to awkwardly keep it all pinned together. While far from a dud, this is still some way below Fahardi’s usual high standards.

Everybody Knows opens in UK cinemas on 8th March.

Overall

As well made as you'd expect from Farhadi, and with a good cast, but it all feels a little familiar.

6

out of 10

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