Asghar Farhadi is an accomplished director and he knows how to tell a good and complex story. His films often show us people who have a veneer of success – jobs, wealth, relationships, family – and are confronted with a moral dilemma that slowly unravels their comfortable lives. Everybody Knows is no exception and, once again, Farhadi has created a film outside of his native Iran.
Set in Spain, the comfortable people are Laura (Penélope Cruz), returning to her home town with her son and daughter Irene (Carla Campra) for a family wedding, and Paco (Javier Bardem), a former lover who now runs a vineyard with his wife Bea (Bárbara Lennie). Laura has sisters and an ageing father and all seem joyous to be reunited for the wedding of Laura’s niece Ana (Inma Cuesta).
This small town contentment is belied by the (unnecessary, I think) opening scene of gloved hands cutting up magazine articles about a kidnapped child. Almost forgotten as the main story unfolds, it niggled at my mind and forewarned me of what was about to happen. As the wedding reaches its drunken, happy zenith, the wilful and reckless Irene disappears.
And so the thread is pulled and the main characters’ lives slowly unravel, with some not so unexpected reveals. Not everyone is as happy as they seem, of course, and old hurts and resentments begin to surface. The moral dilemmas are there and notions of family and success are redefined. The acting is solid, the characters are colourful and engaging and Farhadi knows how to draw out a scene and when to end it.
What I have missed in Farhadi’s last two films is the emotional gut-punch he delivers in the final scenes. It can be bleak but it shows the difficulties we face are not easily resolved. It wasn’t there for me in The Salesman and with Everybody Knows, both the characters and the audience are let too easily off the hook. Like in so many Hollywood films, blame is transferred to a ‘bad’ person and our heroes return to their lives, perhaps fundamentally changed but in a wistful, character-building kind of way.
Farhadi is always a must see for me and having such high expectations is a tricky thing. His films are still good but perhaps no longer great.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.