Everybody Knows further proves why Iranian director Asghar Farhadi is the master of family-centred, tension-filled dramas, even if it’s his most Hollywood-ized work yet.
The Hollywood aspect comes from the film’s plot which is the least inspired in his catalogue of films. It follows the kidnapping of teenager Irene (Carla Campra) from a family home on the night of her aunt’s wedding. Her mother, Laura (Penélope Cruz), along with old flame Paco (Javier Bardem) and the rest of her immediate and extended family, devastated scramble to get to the bottom of the mystery behind Irene’s kidnapping while trying to come up with the funds to pay the ransom fee and avoiding reporting the incident to police.
It’s then where things begin to get interesting as we discover there may be an internal factor at play behind the kidnapping. Tensions rise and the accusations and suspicions of family members begin to grow as we discover there’s more to the story behind the dynamics between Laura and the rest of her family.
Farhadi is a specialist when it comes to developing stories around familial struggles where secrets, lies and half-truths are involved, as evidenced in some of his excellent earlier work such as the Oscar-winning A Separation (2011) and more recently, The Salesman (2016). While those aspects are at the forefront in this film, the whole kidnapping angle gives it that Hollywood vibe whereas the other two films relied simply on minor, internal matters of judgement within each film’s family. Despite this, Everybody Knows still manages to keep audiences engaged for its entirety, wondering what twist and turn will come next from the story.
Not knowing in which direction the story is headed or what secret will be uncovered next is the film’s strong point. For a film that’s comprised mostly of dialogue with no action, it’s a testament to the script, the actors and the director to be able to keep viewers entwined in the story for the length of the film. Real-life couple Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem are excellent as the film’s leads and produce great chemistry. The film’s bevy of supporting actors, most of which will be unknown to western audiences are rock solid in their roles, helping to push the story along while providing some extra emotional weight to the events that unfold.
Everybody Knows is a rare example of masterful filmmaking without the need for big budgets and the backing of the Hollywood machine. Aside from its two high-profile leads, this really is just a small film with a suspenseful story that will get your palms sweaty.
Asghar Farhadi’s second film to be shot outside of Iran, first being the Palme d’Or and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language nominee The Past (2013).