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 characters with ease; while simultaneously exploring the health of family relationships. The family at the film’s core has gathered for a wedding.
The wedding goes ahead without problems, with the large family having a fantastic night. As the reception rages into the night, not even a temporary blackout can damper their spirits. Farhadi films the sense of joy, some of which brought on by the freely flowing alcohol, that wedding evokes perfectly.
However, when the lights come back on, and realization of what has occurred sets in, the joy of the party is firmly placed in the rear-view mirror. The power blackout wasn’t an accident. It becomes clear it was part of a plot to kidnap the daughter of the bride’s sister Laura (Penélope Cruz). This discovery causes tone of the film to quickly swing as the devastating nature of the event weighs heavily on the family.
The same can be said for family friend Paco (Javier Bardem), whose intense efforts to help find the girl suddenly becomes fruit for family gossip. Apart from Laura and Paco, who are most involved in the search, no one else seems to be offering any real help of substance.
Like The Salesman, Everybody Knows is a character study of a male – here in dramatically different circumstances, but the similarity in theme – searching for answers to an horrific act. It is executed just as well, if not better. Javier Bardem is amazing from start to finish; and the script, which at times is searing in truth, is fantastic.
Through Farhadi’s script the film is able to explore the 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 is a perfect example, as rumours swirl and old emotional wounds reopen once Paco takes interest in helping Laura.
Gossip can ruin lives and, as in this case, is a form of laziness. Sitting at tables drinking coffee, talking about other family members when one’s assistance is needed the most. A sad but accurate statement about much of humanity.