GFF19: Everybody Knows

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi is back with this Spain-set kidnapping drama starring Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem

Film Review by Ross McIndoe | 01 Mar 2019
  • Everybody Knows
Film title: Everybody Knows
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Starring: Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem
Release date: 8 Mar
Certificate: 15

It all begins with a wedding. As in The Godfather’s iconic opening scene, the party that follows the ceremony is the truly sacred event. The farthest-reaching branches of the family tree are traced back to the hometown where their roots lie. From the mischief-making grandkids to the lovelorn teens and the grumpy, grey-haired family heads, the whole clan is brought together under a single fairy-light lit night sky to cheer the new couple into an old tradition, the happy continuation of the oldest story.

The wedding scenes in Asghar Farhadi’s latest have that golden sheen that only the happiest memories possess when we look back on them afterwards. Through the cast’s naturalistic charm and Farhadi’s own casually beatific eye, the partygoers are able to occupy, for a moment at least, that idyllic form which is preserved by family photos. But soon disaster strikes and all the dark things which that perfect surface masks begin to crawl up towards the light.

Laura (Penélope Cruz) is thrown into despair when her teenage daughter is snatched from the party and turns to her childhood friend Paco (Javier Bardem) for help. The two were once lovers, an open secret which “everybody knows”. But there are secrets beneath the secrets, tensions and ties in their history, all of which steadily rise from the depths as the film simmers slowly on.  

There are times later in the movie where the characters' personal squabbles begin to eclipse the central drama of the missing girl in a way that feels a little unnatural. But each role feels so fully inhabited, each interaction so tangibly steeped in personal history, that the film is able to elegantly ride out such minor missteps.

Everybody Knows had its UK premiere at Glasgow Film Festival and is released in the UK on 8 Mar by Universal