Movie review: Everybody Knows

Everybody Knows— Running Time: 2:13 — Rating: R
“Everybody Knows” hands us a plot that is hard to follow but intriguing enough to hold us. Because there is no way to describe the plot details without ruining the suspense, let’s start with a short description of writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s family drama.
Laura (Penelope Cruz), who moved to Venezuela when she married, has come home to Spain for the wedding of her sister.  With her are her teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra) and her very much younger son.  Her husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darín) remains in Venezuela looking for a job.  The bearded middle-aged Paco (Javier Bardem), an old friend from long ago, is one of the guests.
Laura’s daughter Irene immediately locks eyes with a young man.  When she leads him to play with risk in the clock tower, we know Irene is deeply driven by a streak of rebellion.  Quite suddenly, during the wedding and the early scenes of the movie, she is kidnapped and the wedding itself turns into the scene for the whole complex plot. 
We watch the relationships unfold while wondering whether the kidnapper is part of the assembled crowd.  A sudden storm knocks out electricity and bathes the whole in candlelight.  How can a murder mystery in candlelight be anything but fun?
As you watch the beauty of the wedding, the church and the guests, the question of who the kidnapper is takes second place.  We know director Farhadi will give us that answer when he’s ready.
Against this grand portrait of a Spanish location, you have a scared mother, a missing daughter and the mother’s relationship with the wedding guests.  All are delivered by good actors in a somewhat murky story script.  Why does no one report the disappearance of young Irene to some authority?  The only possibility is that this provides the backdrop for the revelations that are unfolding gradually.  We can’t learn who the villain is too early.  Irene’s disappearance offers us the time and tools to explore the relationships among the others.The wedding itself becomes a tool that gives us the feel and character of the church, the minister, the wedding and the town.  Toss in the crisis and an arriving husband, stir the plot, and we sit there enjoying the fine acting of the whole cast set in a beautiful place.
In addition to an odd plot, we face another problem common to today’s movies.  The two bearded Spanish men look alike; the two sisters and Paco’s wife look alike.  It’s too easy to excuse this as family resemblance.  When a writer drops us into a crowded wedding in an unfamiliar country, he shouldn’t give us the added burden of casting a crowd of guests and principals who look alike.  We forgive him because the pace is brisk and he gives us a good story full of actors who deliver the story so well that we’re glad we came — even if we can’t tell them apart.
— Reviewed by Joan Ellis

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