Past. Present. Future. How much do we know about it? What do we do with the information we possess? How do we process it? Do we shred it, go through it, or leave it alone as it is? The heroes of Asghar Farhadi’s “Todo lo saben” (“Everybody Knows”) thought they control their life, control the past, and the information they have in their hand. But when it comes to life itself and its ability to play its trick, it finds people to send over like a storm to remind once again you can play with one life, but not with more than one. Because whatever we do, we always have victims to leave behind, in this case the person less involved, yet, the main figure of the entire story.
Laura (Penélope Cruz) has left for Buenos Aires in Argentina. Now, she must return to her hometown, outside Madrid, to attend her sister’s wedding. Her two children are accompanying her, except her husband, Alejandro (Ricardo Darín). As the wedding is approaching, a tragedy occurs that will force Laura to make a decision that will bring unrest to the entire town. However, while she thinks she succeeded at keeping one secret, soon it will be proven, that it was not the case. What she thought nobody knew, the title of the film states otherwise – everybody knows.
The film starts with a pair of hands, assumed to belong to a man, wearing gloves and cutting paper, the article of states – police confirms that Carmen has become a victim of an express kidnapping. Soon we will learn about the fate of Carmen, but before that, Laura just arrived outside of Madrid with her daughter, Irene (Carla Campra), who does not know what awaits her during the wedding. However, while everyone is happy and in a cheerful mood, we meet Paco (Javier Bardem) who, same as everyone else, is looking forward to the wedding. Busy with his winery, his mind will soon be occupied with a fresh problem which arrived with Laura, the woman with whom he used to be in love with, and after the wedding night, their relationship will be tested once again but in a whole different magnitude of emotions they never had to experience.
As I try not to spoil the film, I guess there are a few things worth mentioning. As it was mentioned, Paco and Laura share a passionate past. They were deeply in love and emotionally engaged. And that union resulted in Paco buying the winery Laura’s family had no choice but to sell. Laura, after the disappearance of her daughter, reveals that her husband Alejandro is not as rich as everybody assumed, and that now the money demanded for ransom in exchange of Irene’s life is too large to collect within a short amount of time. This is when the entire town begins digging deep to find the answer, and perhaps the identity of the possible abductors. The drama between Paco/Laura/Alejandro takes a different turn, which will leave every party to travel back in time in their mind and understand the reasons why things that needed to be told then were not, and what needs to be done now.
Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, the film provides a nuanced portrait of a family trauma caused by secrets, a failed relationship, and the truth that, still somewhere in between, tries to decide to come out or not. Alejandro is a nice man but broke and lost in confusion. However, if there’s something he has for sure, it’s his pride and dignity he misuses in this particular story. And once we get to know, through an emotional but profoundly open discussion between Alejandro and Paco, the man reveals his darkest side and how the same side disappeared with the appearance of Irene in his life. Of course, that fact won’t help Paco much, but he does his best to cope with the given details that took him by surprise that can literally damage if not destroy his happy marriage.
The beauty of this film lies in the lack of fear in revealing the weakness of man and the vulnerability of woman in the face of a great danger. As the game between adults continues, the most tragic person in this story is Irene, the young woman that will have to go through unimaginable stress while adults try to decide what to do next. This is why “Todo lo saben” or “Everybody Knows” is an interesting Spanish piece that delivers what the rest of the cinematic world cannot. It has crime, drama, comedy, and thriller. It has an excellent setting, astounding performances, and the storyline that won’t leave even an indifferent viewer unimpacted. And of course, with Farhadi as the writer and director, it helps not only to tackle such a subtle subject matter, but to drive it throughout without even a single failure only he knew how to execute.
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