Everybody Knows (3 stars)

Everybody Knows

Cannes 2018: Penélope Cruz stars in Asghar Farhadi's carefully crafted but predictable drama

The location may have dramatically changed but the themes are strikingly familiar in the latest film from Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman). Everybody Knows (Todos Lo Saben) unfolds in the piercing light and dusty Spanish back-roads north of Madrid but, once again, the focus is on emotional ties prised apart by secrets and lies.

A family wedding brings Laura (Penélope Cruz) back to the small town where she was born. Her former boyfriend Paco (Cruz's real-life husband Javier Bardem) now owns and runs the vineyard that once belonged to her family. She has returned from Buenos Aires with her teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra) and young son. The fact that she is not accompanied by her husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darín) may be significant.

At the height of a boisterous wedding reception, Irene cannot be found and a text message reveals that she has been kidnapped. There are thriller elements as Farhadi explores the how and why of her ordeal, however much more important are the skeletons it rattles in the family cupboard. Secrets are dragged into the open, suspicions are voiced and motives are questioned. What gradually bubbles to the surface is a portrait of a family afflicted by pride and prejudice and burdened by a past that it can neither forgive nor forget.

The Spanish setting and starring role for Cruz can't help but suggest affinities with the films of Pedro Almodóvar, yet this lacks the emotional complexity of Almodóvar's best melodramas and the intensity of Farhadi's earlier work. The soap-opera-style revelations and character flaws are all a little too predictable, the attempts to wrong-foot us a little too strained. The stellar cast and careful craftsmanship mean that Everybody Knows remains perfectly watchable but it is never as gripping as you might have hoped.

Screening as part of the Cannes Film Festival 2018. General release TBC.

Everybody Knows

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • Spain / France / Italy
  • Directed by: Asghar Farhadi
  • Cast: Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Carla Campra

Laura (Cruz) returns to her small town for a family wedding with her teenage daughter Irene (Campra) and young son. But then Irene is kidnapped. A stellar cast and careful craftsmanship make this portrait of family tensions perfectly watchable, but it’s a bit soapy and predictable and never as gripping as it might be.