Everybody Knows (Todos lo saben) (2018)
This mystery-thriller comes from the acclaimed director Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman (2016)), and stars such big-time actors as Penelope Cruz (Volver (2006)), Javier Bardem (Mother! (2017)) and Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)). It seems therefore like this film can do no wrong, but, unfortunately, much does not go well in this latest by Farhadi. In this story, Laura (Cruz) travels from Argentina to Spain with her two children to attend her sister’s wedding. She arrives to a quiet Spanish village of her childhood and is happy to strengthen relationship with her large extended family. However, when Laura’s teenage daughter gets kidnapped, familial secrets come dangerously close to being revealed, and the pool of suspects thins to point to some family members. In Everybody Knows, the lead actors’ performances cannot be faulted, and the film has this one-of-a-kind ambiance of traditional rural Spain. The director also admirably tries to explore some curious familial situations. However, the problem with this film is that it does not become a clever mystery-thriller with tension surrounding the kidnapping and some twists to come. Instead, overlong Everybody Knows is all about tedious melodramatic scenes, with the feeling left that the script could have been considered for some local TV series. Even more unfortunately, what “everybody knows” in the story or the big reveal could easily be guessed in the first half of this well-meaning “mystery” movie.
Everybody Knows is a beautiful enough Spanish-language film. The location is sunny Spain and a rural village. Laura arrives with her two children from Argentina, and there are long shots of a typical Spanish wedding done in a traditional style, with all the singing and dancing. Upon arriving, Laura’s rebellious daughter Irene is immediately taken by a handsome young man Felipe, and in attendance of the weeding are also Paco (Bardem) and his wife Bea (Lennie), close family friends. This part of the film is observational in nature, and it is curious to see how elements of traditional Spain mingle with technological advances, such as drones. The problem here is that Farhadi spends too much time setting his story in this context, and by the time we get to the point of the plot moving forward or to the start of the “drama”, thirty minutes have already passed. This means that if the viewer misses this film by thirty minutes he will not miss much apart from some character interaction and wedding dancing. The director may be taking his time to establish this “calm before the storm”, but the transition from a happy and idyllic wedding to panic and confusion could also have been smoother.
The drama really starts when the electric power goes out as the wedding is in full swing, and Laura’s daughter, Irene, starts feeling suddenly unwell and sleepy. Irene goes to another room to sleep, and Laura then finds her daughter missing, with kidnappers leaving a frightening message on her phone shortly after. What follows is some unbelievable handing of the disappearance of a family member, and though some moments are interesting and exciting, these moments are also few and far between, and, overall, the watch is rather exasperating. The kidnapping of Irene is worrying for everyone, but amidst Laura’s anguish, the priority for most characters is not stopping the kidnappers or discovering the location of Irene, but considering 30-year-old land claims and how Paco may be connected to the family of Laura. Asghar Farhadi may excel in the exploration of family relations, especially spouse jealousy, but his script faults when it comes to uncovering the crime mystery. What “everybody knows” in the film could be guessed straight after the kidnapping of Laura’s daughter, and other final surprises are both lukewarm and unconvincing.
Everybody Knows requires much patience to get through and some very melodramatic scenes to endure, but the film never even rewards its audience for all the wait, for example, with either a final big twist or an emotional punch. The actors’ performances and the atmospheric setting may just be the only things to see in Farhadi’s latest film, with the mystery and crime investigation here clearly taking the forgotten backseat. 5/10