Director: Asghar Farhadi
Screenwriter: Asghar Farhadi
Runtime: 133 mins.
Australian release date: 7 March 2019
Previewed at: Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, on 18 February 2019.
Everybody Knows is the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s first film in Spanish although it’s not the first time he’s made a movie in a language other than Farsi; that was The Past in 2013, starring Bérénice Bejo, which was largely spoken in French. His work is also familiar to Australian audiences from his twin Oscar-winning successes A Separation (2011) and The Salesman (2016). The location for Everybody Knows is Torrelaguna, a picturesque village on the outskirts of Madrid, where Farhadi takes us on a journey of discovery about a secret from the past when an old group of friends and lovers re-unite for a family wedding.
Laura (Penélope Cruz) arrives from Buenos Aires, without her husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darín), but with her teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra) and young son Diego (Iván Chavero) in tow; the family clan have gathered in her hometown to celebrate the nuptials of Ana (Inma Cuesta) and Joan (Roger Casamajor). Irene quickly captures the attention of local lad Felipe (Sergio Castellanos) and accompanies him on a wild scooter ride around the village, while Laura reacquaints herself with old friends, in particular ex-boyfriend Paco (Javier Bardem) and it appears there is still a connection between them. He is now happily married to Bea (Bárbara Lennie) and they operate a vineyard on land that he bought from Laura’s family, for whom he used to work. During the evening celebrations, Irene mysteriously disappears and a desperate hunt commences but there’s no sign of her. The next morning it becomes evident that Irene’s disappearance is the result of a kidnapping and the search for her whereabouts and the raising of a ransom brings the family and villagers together. It also unearths some simmering resentments and feuds from the past and, before long, everyone suspects that it’s an inside job and suspicion falls on all of them.
Farhadi has authentically captured the Latin culture beating in the heart of Everybody Knows, exemplified by the two leads, Cruz and Bardem. A couple in life as well as art, they are simply captivating and their obvious attraction is like watching a fireworks display. Cruz is spell-binding as a mother submerged in grief and prepared to do anything to ensure the safe return of her daughter. She is matched by Bardem who is also captivating in his portrayal of a man bewildered by events and beginning to realise that he is not regarded by his neighbours in the way that he thought he was. And, of course, the brilliant Argentinean actor Ricardo Darín is their equal. This is, after all, a Latin drama (even if written by a Persian) and passions are at fever pitch whenever sex and death are at hand. There are many twists and turns to the story and Farhadi’s script keeps you guessing until the end. Credit must also go to the wonderful cinematography by José Luis Alcain, who captures the resolve of a community drowning in suspicion as he raises the emotional stakes through his concentrated focus on the inhabitants, plus the use of a few drone shots over the glorious, portentous countryside as his camera seeks evidence of this unseen crime.
This is a taut psychological thriller and it deservedly opened the Cannes Film Festival last year. Farhadi’s films always examine the nuances of behaviour when people, genders and classes clash due to events both of their making and outside their understanding. Everybody Knows is an empathetic portrayal of such a situation and one that reflects that the director has been wrestling with its ideas and themes for some 15 years. Like a fine Spanish wine, this is a mature film for an adult audience.