Asghar Farhadi changes gears after his Oscar winning film, The Salesman, deftly moving from a thriller to low-key family drama/mystery with his new film, Everybody Knows. This new venture puts his talent on full display as he commands a large number of important characters at ease, while simultaneously exploring the health of family relationships. This is an entire Spanish/Argentinian family and friends, as one of which is have a wedding.
The wedding goes ahead without problems, with the large family having a fantastic night. The party/reception rages into the night, with no sign of stopping. Then the lights suddenly go off. Soon candles are lit, and the party is back on. A generator is found, the crowd cheers as the lights flick back on. The alcohol is flowing freely, and the sense of joy and letting go is filmed perfectly.
Soon after the lights come back on though, everyone begins to realise what has happened – the power blackout wasn’t an accident and a family nightmare has put the joy of the party firmly and small in the rear view mirror. This discovery causes tone of the film to quickly swing, contrasting the previous scenes of joy and inhibition. It is jarring, but given the events, this is apt.
Devastatingly, the disaster happened while the rest of the family was partying without a care in the word. The weight of the crisis is mirrored by sister to the bride Laura’s (Penelope Cruz) realistic and desperate reaction, making it clear that this film is not about a wedding.
The same can be said for the rest of the family who initially express their worry, especially family friend Paco, a messy looking but happy and talkative Javier Bardem. Paco’s intense efforts to help find the girl suddenly is fruit for family gossip, as he certainly is by far the most involved. Apart from Laura and Paco, no one else seems to be offering any real help.
Like The Salesman, this is a character study of a male – here in dramatically different circumstances – but the similarity is present, and it is executed just as well, if not better. Javier Bardem is amazing from start to finish, and the script he and the rest of the cast are delivering is fantastic, which at times is searing in the truth of words being spoken.
This truth is the central and not-so-subtle theme of the deceit and secrets that can lie beneath the surface of a large family. Gossip is a dirty word, and it can destroy family bonds and trust, this film a perfect example, as rumours begin to swirl around the family once Paco takes interest in helping Laura.
Gossip can ruin lives, but in this case it is a form of laziness. Sitting at tables drinking coffee, talking about other family members rather than helping. Spreading harmful rumours while not putting in any effort at all to help. After the initial discovery of the disaster, no one seems to care. A sad but accurate statement about much of humanity.
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