STARS: Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, etc. etc.
DIRECTOR: Asghar Farhadi
GENRE: Art House/International Drama
Everybody Knows, from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman) is an impressive take on family dynamics, Spanish style, but with a boatload of characters, it can be a bit challenging.
I know that Jill, my dastardly partner in crime here, doesn't like to have to follow too many characters, and I'm the same way. Give me three or four principal players and a fairly straightforward plot--a small subplot is fine--and surprise twists are welcome. Beyond that, what's left of my addled brain might short-circuit.
Everybody Knows does give you a big plot twist in the middle, and it drives the story forward from that point.
Laura (Penelope Cruz) has traveled from Argentina to Spain with two kids in tow to attend her younger sister's wedding. All those bodies come in handy for the celebration scene--singing and dancing and boozing with a sense of abandon in a manner that seems to be endemic to certain cultures, and which I greatly admire.
Later, when Laura's teenage daughter, Irene, is abducted in the middle of the night, the actors get to shine and demonstrate their full range of emotive talents.
Paco (Javier Bardem) runs a nearby wine producing estate, and though they are married to other people, Paco and Laura have a long-standing history as lovers.
Messages from the kidnappers point to the possibility of the abduction being an inside job, as family members grow suspicious of one another, and long buried secrets are revealed.
What will keep you glued to Everybody Knows is that once you've started along the path of the mystery, you just have to follow along to see where it leads.