Jacob Richardson | 8/03/2019
For those expecting a lustful romance, brace yourself; this harrowing Spanish thriller might not be as predictable as you thought. Fast-paced and complex, albeit draped in the kind of sun-drenched beauty one expects from a vineyard setting, Everybody Knows is tense, dramatic and edge-of-your-seat stuff, anchored in resplendent performances from two of the best actors working today. A step above any of the lesser descendants of Taken.
Laura (Penelope Cruz) returns to her hometown outside of Madrid for her sister’s wedding. The high-flying Beunos Aires resident is known to have a rich husband, and during the wedding her daughter is taken. As the family tries to rescue the young girl, secrets are exposed; particularly those concerning her ex-lover Paco (Javier Bardem).
Asghar Farhadi, director of such masterpieces as The Salesman and A Separation revels in the intimate, so a kidnapping thriller might be somewhat unexpected of a choice. Yet Farhadi consistently grounds this piece in the humanity between two increasingly frantic, lost souls, and in doing so this fits right in his wheelhouse.
Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem are both spectacular in this tense drama. Bardem has a wounded puppy vibe, conveying the loyalty to his former love that drives Paco forward to do anything necessary to save the girl. Cruz, a bright ray of light early in the film, does a great job as showing the cracked, distraught persona of Laura when her daughter is taken.
It is all set amongst a sea of incredible spanish landscape, captured in a vibrant, effervescent way by Jose Luis Alcaine. This keeps a constant sense of the foreign and new mingled among the tension and drama, and also a bit of longing for times gone by.
The issues with Everybody Knows come about when looking at the timing of the piece. In order to serve the drama, Farhadi slows things down to an almost glacial pace at times. While he undoubtedly manages to maintain the tension, he probably doesn’t manage to create the destructive, harrowing tone he wants to at all times. Indeed, one feels like he was more interested in exploring the relationships amongst family in drama moreso than the core storyline of a kidnapped girl. That is all well and good, but this would have been a more powerful piece if the dramatic impetus was kept obscure and unfocused, and the familial drama took centre stage.
An ultimately satisfying thriller, that although often slow feels tense, dramatic and exciting.