Dramatically involving and multilayered in theme and tone, “Everybody Knows” is every bit as deeply compelling and engaging as Iranian auteur Asghar Faradhi’s previous films that include the two Oscar winners “A Separation” and a “The Salesman”. Faradhi once again revisits themes about financial hardships, marital complications, hidden secrets, and class struggle that holds elements of a suspense thriller with humanist melodrama.
Taking the unpopular journey of leaving his Iranian homeland to make a film in a different country, with a different language, in Spanish, by casting Hollywood A-List actors such as Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, along with Argentinian star Ricardo Darin. “Everybody Knows” isn’t on the same masterpiece level of “A Separation”, but the film is still breathless and bustling enough to engage the viewer from beginning to end. The film holds the genre mechanics of a domestic drama merged with a kidnapping narrative with the luminous setting of Spanish vineyards just outside Mandrid.
The films opening half recalls “The Godfather” as the opening scenes show various wedding guests showing up for a wedding that is about to take place. The films opens with Laura (Cruz) who travels to Spain from Argentina for the wedding of her sister Rocio (Sara Salamo), while she reconnects with her aging and ill father Antonio, older sister Mariana, and brother-in-law Fernando (Eduard Fernandez) along with various other nephews, nieces, and cousins. Laura has brought along her 16-year-old daughter Irene (Carla Campra), where she instantly forms a relationship with a local boy name Felipe (Sergio Castellanos). During the wedding situations go awry once Irene disappears, in which it’s revealed she is in fact kidnapped for a lofty ransom, and Laura’s husband Alejandro (Darin) flies all the way from Argentina to help out. When Luara’s lifelong friend and ex Paco (Bardem) gets involved, he might find himself sacrificing his land and livelihood to save Irene.
Paco lives outside the village, he owns large amounts of property with his wife, Bea (Barbara Lennie). Together they own a vineyard, in which its revealed Paco once worked for Laura to buying the estate from her years ago. Paco finds himself taking control of the kidnapping that hold random details and notes. With everyone in the family strapped and bankrupt, the money needs to be delivered quickly and swiftly before Iren’s life is put further into jeopardy.
The performances here are very wrenching, they result from sheer joy to sudden devastation. Cruz and Bardem, who are married in real life, are great collaborators here. After doing a strong array of films together raging from Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, to Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor”, and the little seen “Loving Pablo”, these two show great synergy and chemistry on screen together. Lennis as is also sharp as the conflicted wife that must make difficult choices with the betrayal, hidden secrets, and deception she discovers as the drama unfolds.
Farhadi is a master at exploring family turmoil and domestic truths. He captures how mundane everyday life can just explode into a ripple of unexpected tension and sudden turbulence. The story always feels very fresh and real. There isn’t one false move in the film, each of the actors emotions come through with great range, rawness, and authenticity. The film unfolds with highs and lows, by exploring family reunions and revealing secrets as a chaos awaits. Though the film does lose some of the dramatic momentum in the final act, everything up until then is very gripping, the film unfolds like a strong novel that you just don’t want to walk away from.