A family wedding is always a day to remember where nothing goes wrong…
Well, not quite. And it is no different for two time Oscar-winning director, Asghar Farhadi, in his latest film, Everybody Knows.
Farhadi creates a thriller that is intriguing from the start and weaves the mystery through family secrets in a seemingly simple story told with craft. We meet Laura (Penélope Cruz) who returns to her hometown with her family for her sister’s wedding. It leads to the introduction of Paco (Javier Bardem), a long-time friend of the family whose connection runs far deeper.
Both Bardem and Cruz are a formidable force on screen and when together there is added magic.
As the wedding proceedings get underway and the evening party is in full swing, it is discovered Laura’s daughter, Irene (Carla Campra), is missing and later confirmed as kidnapped.
Right away you are taken in by the quaint and beautiful surroundings captured on camera of this small village setting. You are planted right in the middle of the party where you feel totally immersed rather than a mere spectator. We meet an abundance of characters and the quick pace forces you to pay attention to keep up with it all, a feat Farhadi executes with style and ease.
There is an intimacy to this scene where the mix of the music creates a naturalistic feel which makes it hard not to get into. The events that unfold that leads us to the discovery that Irene is missing feels very unoriginal and a trope of most slasher films. Despite this Farhadi’s script generally does well to avoid the many tropes of this type of story.
There is a patience and deliberate slow build to the narrative where it further develops the intrigue as well as mystery that is gripping. The emotional element to the film is further developed in a family ‘secret’ plot point that directly connects Bardem and Cruz’s characters past relationship. They deliver great performances that elevate the film especially in scenes they share where they are both distraught.
Farhadi uses their connection intelligently to the extent you feel as they feel and makes such scenes totally believable. Everything is enclosed and intimate, which even extends to the investigative aspect of the story itself where the family seeks advice of a retired detective instead of the police. You genuinely do feel up to a point a sense of not knowing exactly where things are going.
All of this takes place whilst old family disputes over land sold too cheaply to Paco begin to resurface and adds more to the characters relationships. It ingeniously grows the tension we see on screen and adds further layers.
You do feel, though, that as soon as it is suggested the kidnapping is an inside job at the half-way point some of the films hard-earned intrigue dissipates. Of course, it still keeps you committed but there is a feeling of slight disappointment and marks a slight wobble for the film.
Even with its issues, the way Farhadi tells the story in such a way that you become utterly immersed in the events that unfold and makes up for it. The duo of Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz gives Everybody Knows an added element that makes it shine with characters you feel connected with.