“EVERYBODY KNOWS” — 3 stars — Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darín, Eduard Fernández, Bárbara Lennie, Inma Cuesta; R (for some language); In general release; running time: 132 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Asghar Farhadi’s “Everybody Knows” is an insightful, if flawed, examination of how a stressful situation can threaten to tear apart the strongest of bonds.
The story follows a family in Spain who is thrown into a terrible predicament in the middle of a routine wedding celebration. Two principal characters drive the action: Laura (Penélope Cruz) has come home from Argentina to attend her sister’s Ana (Inma Cuesta)’s wedding, along with her two children, teenage Irene (Carla Campra) and younger brother Diego (Ivan Chavero). Laura’s husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darín) has opted out of the trip due to work conflicts.
Paco (Javier Bardem) is a partner in the local vineyard that used to be owned by Laura’s father. He too, is married, and has stayed close with Laura’s family, though Paco and his wife Bea (Barbara Lennie) do not have children.
In the midst of the celebratory turmoil, Irene meets Paco’s nephew Felipe (Sergio Castellanos), and soon they are off riding around town on his motorcycle, exploring the clock tower in the local church and grabbing a smoke when no one is looking. Felipe also happens to reveal that “everybody knows” Laura and Paco have a history together, though they appear to be on good terms.
Around this time you might assume “Everybody Knows” will see Laura and Paco fight their long-suppressed feelings for each other before finally succumbing to an illicit affair. Instead, shortly after a brief power outage during the wedding reception, Laura discovers that Irene is missing and then a text message delivers the terrible news: her daughter has been kidnapped.
Instead of a romance, “Everybody Knows” quickly shifts into a different kind of drama, as the family scrambles to deal with the situation. The kidnappers have threatened to kill Irene if anyone contacts the police, so Laura is forced to deal with the situation internally. Suspects include everyone from the wedding’s video crew to the grape pickers at Paco’s vineyard. It doesn’t take long, though, before a series of suspicious discoveries reveal the impossible: the kidnapping was an inside job, by a party with intimate knowledge of the family’s dark secrets.
The rest of “Everybody Knows” slowly reveals the extent of those dark secrets, involving Paco’s complicated past with Laura’s family, and we watch as those involved wrestle with suspicions that run rampant across family lines. In the meantime, the clock ticks on Irene, whose ransom is priced at a staggering 300,000 euros.
Rather than turn “Everybody Knows” into an action thriller, like Liam Neeson’s “Taken” films, Farhadi concentrates on the family’s internal drama, making the film more of a psychological portrait of how bonds of family and friendship can be warped and frayed under extreme stress. The drama is effective and, to its credit, the performances are convincing enough to keep the resolution from feeling too obvious.Comment on this story
At the same time, there is a fairly major plot twist about two-thirds of the way through that couldn’t have been more obvious if Farhadi had marked it with signal flags, and the 133-minute run time feels a bit labored. But for many audiences, the strong performances from Cruz and Bardem and the thoughtful subject matter will compensate for a few stumbles.
“Everybody Knows” may not be the best crime thriller out there, but it has enough going for it to merit some strong consideration.
Rating explained: “Everybody Knows” draws a very mild R rating for scattered profanity and adult themes, including about a half-dozen uses of the F-word. It is presented in Spanish with English subtitles.