May 6, 2019  (Web Review)

Everybody Knows

Universal, 134 min., in Spanish w/English subtitles, R, DVD: $22.99, Blu-ray: $34.99, May 7

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose earlier films laid bare the realities of family life in his native land, shot this less successful portrait of domestic crisis in Spain. Laura (Penélope Cruz) returns to her small hometown from Argentina to attend the wedding of her sister, accompanied by her wild teen daughter Irene (Carla Campra) and little son Diego. Laura’s father is a former landowner who has fallen on hard times due to his drinking and gambling, and her older sister and new husband are struggling to run a small hotel with their daughter. During the wedding reception Irene is kidnapped, and as Laura’s husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darín) rushes to the scene from Buenos Aires, her childhood friend Paco (Javier Bardem)—who bought the family’s land—takes charge of trying to negotiate with the culprits, despite his own wife’s aversion to getting involved. Laura’s father resents Paco as the upstart who took advantage of his misfortune, and as the investigation grinds on, secrets and lies are inevitably revealed. Farhadi eventually provides a solution to the whodunit, although attentive viewers may guess it long before, but the heart of the story lies in the relationships, especially the triangle of Laura, Paco, and Alejandro, and while Cruz overacts, both Bardem and Darín offer perceptive, engrossing portraits of men with very different motives and senses of responsibility. Their powerful performances bring a compelling intensity to this slow-burning if also somewhat rambling film. Recommended. (F. Swietek)