After delivering his Oscar winning Best Foreign Language film ‘The Salesman’ Iranian director Asghar Farhadi is back with his latest project. ‘Everybody Knows’ is a Spanish language drama thriller starring Penélope Cruz & Javier Bardem. Laura (Cruz) and her two children travel from Buenos Aries to her hometown near Madrid for a family wedding. However, the celebrations don’t last long with the family quickly being drawn into a crime mystery, unearthing past drama between these relatives.
It’s always great to see the likes of Penélope Cruz & Javier Bardem starring in Spanish films like this. They bring a wonderful presence to the film thanks to their A-list stardom and it’s good to see them continually support stories told in their native language. They are compelling as the lead performers here demonstrating the joy of family but also, and more predominately the distress and anguish that results when this is threatened. The supporting cast is made up of a lot of performers. As the film opens audiences are quickly thrown into the immediate prelude to the family wedding like a last minute plus one of one of the guests. It’s somewhat challenging to fully familiarise yourself with the countless family members and how they’re related to one and other. Nonetheless, as the film goes on it does become less of a challenge but considering the long runtime an opening with a little more clarity on the range of characters could have been helpful. This has no implication on the actual performances of the cast though who are strong across the board and play well amongst the central mystery of the screenplay.
The narrative is quite a slow burner but one that has a steady and consistent pace throughout. Farhadi isn’t interested in cheap thrills or over dramatised plot twists, presenting a more authentic style of drama thriller. This more realistic approach will work for some audiences but others will struggle with this more grounded approach combined with the running time which exceeds the two hour mark. Regardless of this the central mystery is worked well into the narrative and this longer running time allows for it to be properly developed. The screenplay reveals essential details at just the right moments bringing in the audience to try and solve the mystery as the characters do. However, at times the editing is a little abrupt and momentarily disrupts the flow of the film but this is a minuscule issue that doesn’t detract much from the overall viewing experience.
With a cast as compelling as Farhadi has assembled here ‘Everybody Knows’ was always going to be captivating. Although his slower paced storytelling told over the elongated duration of the film does threaten to alienate some audiences. Despite this the crime mystery at the heart of this family drama is constructed carefully and executed with precision, providing audiences with a stirring Spanish thriller.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 7/10
Question: What is your favourite Penélope Cruz film?
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Thanks to Queens Film Theatre for screening access