In Asghar Farhadi's newest drama everybody knows; the Iranian filmmaker of About Elly and The Salesman fame ventures into rural Spain along with two big A-list stars. It's such a treat to see both Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz on their own turf in a small-scale, self-contained picture. Laura returns from Argentina to her hometown outside Madrid to celebrate her sister's wedding, however things take a turn for the worst when her eldest daughter Irene is abducted.
Farhadi crafts a raw, hard-boiled family drama immersed in the tiny town and isolated countryside. With a more stripped down approach, Everybody Knows sketches the emotional torment of a family riddled with deceit and resentment, and how an event leads to a butterfly effect opening a rift that will change relationships forever. As a result of Irene's kidnapping Laura (Cruz) seeks help from old friends, specifically Bardem's avuncular figure Paco.
Sooner rather than later we discover that Paco and Laura were once lovers. Fooling around in the dusty, sun dappled bell tower Irene finds her mother's initials carved into the timeworn brick wall. The church bells are a predominant feature of the film's soundscape and it becomes clear right away how vital its importance is within the narrative - Farhadi hints a connection between Irene and Paco as the bells continue to chime in the backdrop across the movie. Expanding up the amazing sound track we also have the evocative, rustling branches of Paco's vineyard, the dirt track roads that crunch underfoot and the pouring rain that scuttles against the frayed jalouise windows.
Cruz and Bardem are captivating in two roles that are seemly, deliberately, given very little direction. Cruz presents a woman who is readjusting to her home environment years after her last visit, settling into the lifestyle fairly quickly but drawn closer to old friends once her daughter is abducted. Bardem is depleted as the weary Paco, reluctantly thrown into the mix of Laura's family tragedy and laying everything on the line for her. Haunted by past relationships, it's refreshing to see Bardem in a thoughtful and understated role, acting against his mainstream expectations and taking on a more endearing character.
Farhadi cleverly diverts away from overused genre conventions - there's no cross-cutting between the victim and her searchers. Everybody Knows is simply - and beautifully - about the instability of a family dynamic under extreme circumstances. Farhadi aims for naturalistic story telling and definitely achieves so.
Everybody Knows (Todos Lo Saben)
Pinch of info
Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.