EVERYBODY KNOWS (Asghar Farhadi). 133 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (February 15). See listing. Rating: NNN
Iranian writer and director Asghar Farhadi doles out detective plots, where his characters search for a missing person (About Elly) or mull over assaults (A Separation, The Salesman). Their investigations propel Farhadis humanist dramas, which are really about buried passions and resentments, and the class differences and social structures that pit amiable people against each other.
Everybody Knows is no different. This time a kidnapping is the inciting incident, sending its characters in circles searching for an abducted teen as they start side-eyeing each other.
In a rustic and quaint Spanish town, family and friends gather for a wedding. Penelope Cruzs Laura is a mother with two kids in tow, returning home for the occasion from Argentina. Cruzs real-life husband, Javier Bardem, plays the sun-dappled Paco, a close family friend who owns a nearby vineyard. He also has a passionate history with Laura.
The wedding and reception where guests dance, drink, duck from the rain and drunkenly stay merry during a power outage shows Farhadi at his intimate scene-setting best. He has us hovering in and around the group, enjoying their company, while feeling out a group dynamic that will then be tested when Lauras daughter is mysteriously abducted for ransom.
Farhadi is regularly celebrated for walking that fine line between low-key thriller and slow-burning soap opera, but that can also be frustrating. The filmmakers multiple dramatic turns and late-breaking revelations get in the way of any meaningful exploration of class-fuelled bitterness.
More so than Farhadis other films, Everybody Knows piles on the narrative but comes up emotionally short.