Everybody Knows (Todos Lo Saben) is Iranian Asgar Farhadi’s Spanish-language first, a family drama-cum-thriller with top stars Penélope Cruz, Javier Badem and Ricardo Darín.
Secretos y Mentirasby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Penélope Cruz is the centre of Everybody Knows as Laura, who returns with her teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra) to the small town in Spain where she grew up to celebrate her sister’s wedding. To her family’s surprise, her husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darín) has remained in Argentina, where they live, because of his work.
Laura’s parent’s rambling house is filled with a lively gathering of relatives. The wedding party in the courtyard turns into a riotous Spanish fiesta of music and dancing until a sudden torrential rainstorm causes an electricity blackout. When the lights come on again, Irene has vanished from her bedroom. Everyone searches for her frantically in the pouring rain. And then the kidnappers’ messages start to come in. Cruz’s performance as the distraught mother is histrionic.
By returning to her childhood home for the first time after many years, Laura meets up again with Paco (Javier Badem). They grew up together and everybody knows – though they don’t mention it now – that they had a relationship when they were young. Paco now owns Laura’s father’s vineyard, something which still causes resentment for reasons which are not initially apparent, and he too is married now – to sensible teacher Bea (Bárbara Lennie).
Iranian auteur Asgar Farhadi (The Salesman, The Past) first gained international recognition with the searing drama Separation. Typically, his films focus on ordinary people faced with impossibly difficult moral choices whose complexities reveal themselves gradually in the course of the film. Like Everybody Knows, his About Elly starts with the unexplained disappearance of a young female character (in this case from a holiday home on the Caspian Sea). The Past is also set in Europe, in Paris, though the dialogue is mainly in Farsi, but although Farhadi wrote the screenplay for Everybody Knows, it was written first in Farsi and translated into Spanish. It’s shot in an identifiably Iranian style, open and natural, economical, with mainly upper body mid shots.
Farhadi’s Spain is a whirling travel brochure of Latin emotional ebullience, shady town squares, dusty roads winding through sun-baked countryside and immigrant workers harvesting grapes (though typically they’re the first to be suspected of the kidnapping). He seems fascinated by the abandon of the music, dancing and drinking of the family celebration, so different from what would be publicly permitted in Iran.
Sexual behaviour, class snobbery, a family soap opera that turns bewilderingly into a crime thriller as Paco, Laura and Alejandro search for Irene… and the moral choice? It’s so fundamental that it’s universal but it’s also something that would perhaps be even less possible or even more under wraps in Iranian society – maybe that’s why Farhadi has set his film in more-liberal Europe. Farhadi must have directed his cast in a language and a country he does not know, so could that be why none of it quite rings true?
Everybody Knows premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and is released on 8 March 2019 in the UK.