'Everybody Knows' is a thriller, but not in a conventional sense. It's not about a heightened sense of fear, but an immersion in the realism of family and village life. So identifiable and human, that when disaster strikes for main character Laura (Penelope Cruz), it keeps you on the edge of your seat with compassion. Laura is on a trip back home to Spain from Argentina with her children, for a family wedding. Her 16 year-old daughter is played by Carla Campra, whose performance stands out, then lingers for being as riveting as it is natural.
Like the walls of the sun-bleached brick houses of the Spanish village where the story is set, this is a film built from many parts. It’s a puzzle film, a mystery to be solved by the viewer. It’s immersive, I could taste the dust in the wind and mouthfuls of the meals that Penelope Cruz’s character could hardly eat. I didn't want it to end. The chemistry between real-life couple Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem (Paco) sizzles out from the screen and seems inevitable, befitting the script and sumptuous to watch.
Some of the early dialogue, action and cinematic choices early on in the film may feel a little heavy-handed in terms of plot direction to begin with. It could even feel as though the writer director, Asghar Farhadi, is underestimating his audience. But in a more subtle way, this is the genius of the film. This creates the sense of inevitability, that drives the film forward, told to the audience first with the with the clockwork mechanism of the village clock in the opening credit sequence. Family life, and love can seem inevitable. And with this Asghar Farhadi asks, is love inevitable? And it’s a fascinating question to ask. As such the symmetry of this film is perfect. Intellectually it's like a chewing gum that doesn't run out of flavour.
'Everybody Knows' doesn’t have the subtlety of Asghar Farhadi’s other films, like 'A Separation', for instance. This is a more glamorous and melodramatic beast. But even with a large serving of Hollywood glamour, it’s still peppered with the realism of messy interiors and tired decor, which makes the imperfect lives of the characters seem even more real.