Take three Oscar winners, then mix in some sexual tension with suspense and intrigue – what do you get? A simmering Spanish film that will drew in its audience in a way that very few thrillers seem able to do these days.
Directed and written by one of the world’s most enthralling filmmakers, Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman), Everybody Knows sees Laura (Penelope Cruz – Volver, Vanilla Sky) return to her birthplace in Spain with her two children for her sister’s wedding. Upon arriving her two children seem to see the time away from their home in Argentina as paradise, especially her teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra – Veronica, Marsella) who has her eyes on a local lad.
Things go very awry though when Irene is kidnapped during the wedding reception and Laura begins to receive threatening text messages about what will happen if a ransom is not paid. When it is realised that it must be someone close to the family that is holding Irene accusations begin to fly. Suspirations are cast on Laura’s then absent husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darin – Truman, Wild Tales) who is in desperate need for cash, her ex-boyfriend Paco (Javier Bardem – Skyfall, No Country For Old Men) and his new wife Bea (Barbara Lennie – Maria, El Nino) who the family are feuding with over the sale of some land years earlier.
In the hands of a lesser filmmaker Everybody Knows could have been a Taken style revenge film with Javier Bardem go on a bloody rampage through a Spanish town. Instead Farhadi has the skills as filmmaker to instead do the script do the bulk of the work. This is an intriguing tale where just about anybody could be responsible for the kidnapping – hell at one point I even found myself wondering whether the local priest was involved seeing he was so desperate for cash to fix up the Church. It is that suspicion that totally grips you as an audience. Such is the way that the scenes are written that you almost forget that a girl’s life is as stake as your mind starts to think about who possibly might have her and why they have done it – you find yourself scouring every line of dialogue and every scene just for a clue to who the guilty parties might be. In fact the only minor disappointment in this film is that the identity of the guilty is kept so well hidden until the reveal that the audience may feel a little ripped off that they didn’t receive more information a little earlier on.
Farhadi also brings the best out in his cast. It is impossible not to like the character of Paco even when he is one of the suspects in the case. Bardem is once again in Oscar winning territory here as he plays man who is obviously never gotten over his romance with Laura while trying desperately to hold onto his vineyard and not annoy or hurt his new wife Bea. Bardem’s scenes with Cruz are some of the finest cinematic moments of 2019. There is an obvious sexual chemistry between them on screen and in a way he is the hero of this film without ever drawing a weapon in anger. Likewise Cruz is in award-winning form as well as her emotional portrayal of a distraught mother tears at your own emotions. She once again reminds cinema-goers what a great actress she really is.
Everybody Knows is a must for anyone that likes a well-written, brilliantly acted film. The suspense this film generates puts most big action block-busters to shame while delivering two acting performances that will be long remembered by Cruz and Bardem. Few films with involve their audience as much as Everybody Knows does this year as this gritty who-done-it will completely immerse anybody watching it.