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Film Review: Everybody Knows

21 March 19 words: Laura Enright

Real-life husband and wife team Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem pair up for Asghar Farhadi's latest feauture. But does their on-screen chemistry make Everybody Knows worth watching? 

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darín

Running time: 133 mins

After watching Everybody Knows, or Todos Lo Saben in its original Spanish, I couldn’t quite calculate why it had been dubbed a ‘psychological thriller’ – I learned that the inclusion of a kidnapping in a plot makes a film neither psychological, nor thrilling. With an up-and-coming writer/director, an outstanding cast and promising storyline, Everybody Knows aims to be hard-hitting and raw but doesn’t quite reach the finish line. The film tells the story of Laura (Penélope Cruz) who returns to her hometown, a dusty fruit-farming village outside Madrid, where a nightmarish situation unfolds on the night of her sister’s wedding when Laura’s teenage daughter is kidnapped. Laura soon learns that nobody can be trusted, even those within her closest circle. Returning for the first time in years to where she spent her youth uncovers decades of secrets and turmoil that is still rotting at the core of her family. The small-town mentality comes to the fore that urged Laura to leave in the first place.

It kicks off to a great start, setting itself up as a whodunit type film – the opening scene of birds in a clocktower serve as an ominous precursor of the events about to unfold. From the outset, the setting and characters are sexy, there are hints at an ex-love interest plot that never quite fizzled out and the kidnapping storyline is engaging. However, Farahadi then slows the film down to almost a complete, emotional stop, so don’t let the fact that this film has subtitles throw you off – it won’t be a problem. I couldn’t help but feel he could have achieved the same affect with an hour shaved off the running time.

Everybody Knows tries hard to be ground-breaking but is just about satisfying

That said, Penélope Cruz gives a compelling performance as usual, especially paired with the fact that I’ve just finished watching The Assassination of Gianni Versace, in which she stars as Donatella Versace, a character that couldn’t be further from Laura in Todos Lo Saben. Javier Bardem is also impressive as Laura’s former love-interest and all-round good-guy, but there was still something missing here – where is the all the chemistry that these two actors normally stir up? Particularly considering that they are married in real-life. 

It can be cliché in places and emotions run overwhelmingly high to the point that it becomes soppy and unnecessary – there’s only so many times we, as an audience need to see a weeping mother before it becomes overkill. That said, it does have a nice rounded ending with tensions building nicely, but the impact that I feel Farahadi is going for is simply not achieved; Everybody Knows tries hard to be ground-breaking but is just about satisfying. All in all, a good watch if you’re feeling like watching a movie with your parents where you don’t have to pay a whole lot of attention, but I certainly wouldn’t be writing home about it. I didn’t find myself reflecting on it as soon as the credits had rolled up, and that to me, is the mark of a lacklustre film.

Did you know? Everybody Knows marks the fifth collaboration between real-life husband and wife Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, following Jamón, Jamón (1992), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), The Counselor (2013) and Loving Pablo (2017).

Everybody Knows is screening at Broadway Cinema until Thursday 21 March

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