No Leonard Cohen to be found here.
Synopsis: Laura and her children travel from Buenos Aires to the village where she was born, on a Spanish vineyard, to attend her sister’s wedding, but unexpected events lead this gathering toward a crisis that exposes the family’s hidden past. (Focus Features)
Starring: Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Ricardo Darín
Writer: Asghar Farhadi
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Rating: PG (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 133mins
Foreign language films don’t usually appeal to a lot of viewers, however, Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem are known commodities, appearing in plenty of English language films. In Everybody Knows, we see them (and hear them) more in their element and speaking their native language of Spanish. In this Spanish language drama, a woman named Laura (Cruz) and her children return to her childhood home to attend her sister’s wedding. Soon after, a crisis would hit her and her family which would unearth a major secret from her past as well as grudges and other dysfunction.
The story here was more of a slow burn but despite the predictable secret, it was still compelling to watch. The film would arguably pack on the family drama a little too strong to the point that it became hard to follow everything at times which could lead to viewers losing interest. Meanwhile, a crisis was taking place though it would be easy to miss as the family drama got most of the focus. The balance between the two was never quite there which meant the latter never could get off the ground thus leaving the story’s eventual resolution lacking and will surely leave some viewers wanting more.
The best part of the film was the stellar performances of Cruz and Bardem and their great chemistry. Cruz as Laura was compelling to watch as the suffering mother. She was relatable while showing plenty of emotion and strength. Bardem, as Laura’s friend and former lover Paco, was great and compelling as well as a man who would have to step up during a difficult situation. For reasons that will be revealed over the course of the film, it was easy to feel bad for his character. It was a shame that the film couldn’t further explore Laura and Paco’s backstory.
Overall, Everybody Knows is an engaging enough family crime drama that never achieves the right balance between the two, causing neither to ever quite get off the ground in a satisfying way. One is piled on too strongly which will lead some viewers to lose interest and the other was an afterthought with the film ending in a whimper as a result. Cruz and Bardem excel but the film will leave most viewers wanting more, including their characters’ backstory.