By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

One can go home again, but this journey to the past can re-open some old wounds and fuel some unresolved feelings of resentment. This is the central theme of the new film by writer/director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman). Farhadi, whose previous movies skillfully and effectively deal with relationship troubles, is clearly the right filmmaker to tell a story such as this one. And though the characters in his latest story often behave like dogs chasing their tails, he still manages to compell and captivate in tbis mystery/drama. Casting Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, and Ricardo Darin in the lead roles also contributes wonderfully to how well the drama plays out.

Cruz stars as Laura, a devoted wife and and mother currently living in Argentina who was born and raised in Spain. When a family member is about to get married, she must return home for the ceremony and festivities. With her son Diego (Ivan Chavero) and her daughter Irene (Carla Campra) in tow, Laura has to leave her husband Alejandro (Darin) behind to attend to some personal matters. Upon her arrival she and her children happily get reacquainted with their family as well as her ex-boyfriend and old family friend Paco (Bardem). Though the wedding goes mostly well, Laura soon discovers that Irene has gone missing. After a receiving a ransom demand, Laura and her family must figure out the best way to get Irene home safely. This startling development not only fuels some heavy emotions, it also dredges up some problems from Laura and Paco’s past.

Even though the film does occasionally stall with some redundancies, Asghar Farhadi is a whiz at writing emotionally charged dialogue. The filmmaker keeps the movie’s main focus on the relationships between the characters and this makes for a riveting examination of human relations. To top it off, Farhadi does a great job of keeping the film’s reveal well hidden that I actually had no idea who would be the real villains involved. I found one attempted twist somewhat predictable, but this issue is minor in the grand scheme of things.

As I stated above, Cruz, Bardem, and Darin are all spectacular in their roles. Cruz plays the role of the desperate and frantic mother so well that she credibly looks exhausted and nearly devastated. Bardem does well as the stronger, but frustrated and cornered Paco. Darin is sublime as the highly troubled, but desperately hopeful Alejandro, a loving father and husband, but one who really isn’t well respected by anyone. The movie also features great performances by Eduard Fernandez, Barbara Lennie, Inma Cuesta, Elvira Minguez, Ramon Barea, and Carla Campra.

And as I genuinely got involved in itsstory and characters, I must highly recommend Everybody Knows. Those familiar with Asghar Farhadi’s previous films are sure to get into his latest tense and emotional drama. Those unfamiliar with his work should still definitely see this movie, but then must seek out the films A Separation and The Salesman. Asghar Farhadi may not be a highly recognizable name in cinema, but is one that truly deserves to be.

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