Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Everyone Knows – family secrets exposed as a child goes missing (QFT from Friday 8 March)

What starts out as a family homecoming to celebrate a wedding suddenly changes when a child goes missing from their bed and anonymous text messages demanding a ransom payment are received.

Once the dominoes set up years before begin to fall, they cannot be stopped. The identity of the kidnappers isn’t the only secret in the village. And as the title suggests – Everyone Knows – not everything that is concealed stays unknown.

Given the circumstances of the snatch, the finger of suspicion spins around like a weather fane. As past exchanges of money are raked over, who in the family doesn’t have financial worries and motive?

How far would you go for your child? Penélope Cruz is the matriarch, Laura, at the centre of the drama. Her emotion sways across the full spectrum of shock – upset, distracted, confused, angry, desperate – yet while highly sprung she never lapses into a stereotyped wailing wreck of a performance. With a husband on the other side of the world, Laura’s old friend Paco (Javier Bardem) is a practical support and a shoulder to cry on as the family try to understand what they should do.
“If this happened to your child, would you do nothing?”

Carla Campra plays Irene, the daughter at the heart of the event that triggers the familial crisis. Her devil-may-care attitude shines out, and her on-screen absence as the story unfolds is what really changes the mood of the film.

Visual symbolism is well-placed in the movie, with birds flying out of a church belfry as the bells ring (secrets being released), a bird pooing on an old flame (signalling a change of fortune), street cleaners washing dirt out of the cracks in the pavement, and the pivotal power cut. A retired policeman wanders in and out of the narrative, piecing together the possible logic behind the abduction, echoing the audience’s thinking back to the distressed family.

Drone footage of the wedding is played and replayed, looking for clues, but like Chekhov’s gun, it irritatingly doesn’t serve much purpose or significance in the story. And when will films stop relying on anonymous text messages? But these are minor quibbles.

The ensemble cast throw themselves at the web of deceit and suspicion spin by screenwriter and director Asghar Farhadi. At 133 minutes, Everyone Knows is long, but it never drags. The family tension is stirred up into a fabulous meaty stew that will nourish cinemagoers, and the confident ending brings the story full circle.

Everyone Knows opens in the Queen’s Film Theatre on Friday 8 March.

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