Thriller, family drama, Cruz and Bardem--what's not to like?
Director: Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman)
Screenplay: Farhadi (A Separation)
Cast: Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Javier Bardem
Runtime: 2 hrs 13 min
By: John DeSando
“It’s time that gives character, from personality to wine.” Paco (Javier Bardem)
Asghar Farhadi, whose films lay heavily on family drama, a sort of humorless Woody Allen, has a general audience pleaser in the thriller and family drama film, Everybody Knows. Although the thriller motif is alive and kicking without serious avoidance of its tropes, it’s in the family drama that this interesting film gets its Spanish sunshine.
Opening with a striking clock metaphor, emphasizing the influence of time on the family, Farhadi cuts to an exuberant Spanish family wedding with wine and dancing dominating. Soon, however, the abduction and ransom demand for a family teen, Irene (Carla Campra), precipitously changes the scene to a family grieving.
Mother Laura (Penelope Cruz) enlists the help of ex-love Paco to get Irene from the kidnappers. As we watch the family twist and turn, it is clear that Paco and Laura go a long way back and may still love each other; the abduction helps to mitigate the passion.
As the opening quote hints, Everybody Knows is as much about the alteration of time and its influence in the present as it is about abduction. The kidnappers know the family well enough to manipulate them, know their pasts that is. Moreover, as Paco and Laura’s past dramatically impinges on the present, so too does the family legacy, right down to the teen generation that has a challenge defining their character without the help of time or whatever wealth the land offers the family.
Cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine (frequent collaborator with Almodovar) so crisply lenses the Spanish countryside that you’d think we were seeing A Walk in the Clouds or Under the Tuscan Sun. But we’re not; we are deeply moved by a family’s grief over the abduction and the concomitant effect of time on the family.
For an enjoyable thriller that dramatically emphasizes dialogue and family politics, Everybody Knows knows how to entertain and challenge. And the chemistry of Cruz and Bardem doesn’t hurt either.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com