Cast: Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darin, Barbara Lennie
Director: Asghar Farhadi
In the psychological thriller genre, there are really only two ways that a movie like Everybody Knows can go. Either it comes out as an innovative and interesting addition to the genre or it will recycle old tropes and end up acting as a cliche and generic addition to the genre. Somehow, Everybody Knows ends up riding the line where it replays many of the elements that make thrillers exciting, but the lead performances help carry the movie and make it feel greater than it probably is. While the lead performance by Cruz is impressive, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed by Farhadi’s latest project considering how revered his past few movies have been and Everybody Knows definitely feels like a step backwards and not a trend in the right direction for Farhadi.
The film follows Laura (Cruz) a Spanish woman who’s returning to her hometown for a family wedding. While things seem to be going well for everyone, the wedding takes a turn for the worse when Laura’s daughter Irene is kidnapped and the kidnappers threaten to kill her if Laura goes to the police or doesn’t give them the amount of money they’re demanding. With Irene’s life on the line, information comes out about Laura and her family that were buried for years and will forever impact the way that these people interact with one another. In a cast that has multiple critically-acclaimed actors in it, the one who stands out the most is obviously Cruz. The way she reacts to every twist and turn along the way feels like how a grieving mother would really act in this scenario. The pure agony that she shows when the reality of her daughter potentially being hurt or killed is something I would expect from a seasoned actress like Cruz and helps the audience relate more to the story and its characters. Outside of Cruz though, the film rarely goes the extra mile to separate itself from other movies within the genre and tends to implement the usual twists that the majority of these other films have. Given the amount of accolades that Farhadi has built his career on, you would expect the movie to feel fresher and more original. When you have a director with two Best Foreign Language Academy Awards in his background, you would expect something of similar quality in any additional movie that Farhadi makes. Sure this is a Spanish-language movie and is different from Farhadi’s award-winning Persian films, but maybe switching things up proved to be the main deterrent of this movie. I haven’t seen any of Farhadi’s previous movies, however based on what I’ve read they tend to deal with complex social issues and themes, and none of those are really on display here. Sure there are a few moments where the movie tries to be creative or interesting with the plot, but ultimately the plot feels too manufactured and unnatural to ever separate itself and feel unique. Farhadi still possesses the talent to drive strong performances out of his cast, but unfortunately Everybody Knows doesn’t live up to the lofty expectations set by previous projects of Farhadi.
Overall, I think if Everybody Knows was directed by an up-and-coming director with little experience, it would serve as a solid building block for a career and open doors for them to work on higher budget films in the future. With Farhadi in the director’s chair, I was expecting something a little more polished, but Everybody Knows is still entertaining enough to stream on a Sunday. There are a couple of bright spots in the 132 minute runtime, but ultimately Everybody Knows ends up as the first blunder in an otherwise thriving career for Farhadi.
Overall Score: 5.5/10