Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Everybody Knows

Tale of a Top-Flight Dysfunctional Family

Review by Ken Burke

                Everybody Knows (Asghar Farhadi)   rated R
(As noted below, I read many other reviews of this film in search of some cast info; in most
cases this photo was either the lead or the only one used 
[including with the clip below]
so I felt I needed to start with it also in order to be a proper part of the critics' club.)
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Laura, traveling with her 2 children, teenage Irene and much-younger Diego, comes from her present home in Buenos Aires back to her family’s village in Spain for the wedding of her younger sister, with the not-so-secret-revelation from teenage Filipe to Irene, nephew of local vintner Paco, that his uncle used to be Laura’s lover before she married someone else (Alejandro), moved to Argentina.  After the wedding the reception’s a marvelous party for everyone—despite a power failure and a rainstorm—until Irene suddenly disappears, soon to be followed by a hefty ransom demand to Laura, then oddly enough also to Bea, Paco’s wife.  Irene needs her medications, time’s running out, suspicions are rampant, including that Alejandro might have staged the whole thing (knowing Paco’s actually Irene’s biological father) because he desperately needs money.  I can’t tell you here what comes next (see below if you’re curious), but there’s solid drama, well-built tension, fascinating character studies, although you have to pay close attention in the subtitles to even be clear who some of the characters are, so I’d say the narrative’s a bit more confused than it needs to be, along with the limiting fact that even if you are interested in this film (from the Oscar-winning director of the contemporary Iranian masterpieces, A Separation and The Salesman) you’ll have a hard time finding it in its currently-limited-collection of North American theaters.  It’s worth your time, doesn’t offer easy solutions, although you’ll likely have to seek it out sometime later through some video venue.

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.
What Happens: Laura (Penélope Cruz), a Spaniard living in Buenos Aires with her husband, Alejandro (Ricardo Darín),* and childrenteenage Irene (Carla Campra), much younger Diego (Iván Chavero)has returned to her hometown village (where hubby’s a local legend for financing renovations to the church years ago, yet he’s stayed home due to business obligations) for the wedding of her sister, Ana (Inma Cuesta), to Joan (Roger Casamajor).  Almost upon arrival Irene runs off with local-boy-Felipe (Sergio Castellanos), soon driving his motorcycle rather than just riding on it, upsetting Mom somewhat with her easy toss of caution to the wind.  Other relatives we quickly encounter include Laura’s aging father, Antonio (Ramón Barea), his wife (whose name I didn't catch nor can find in a cast list), another sister, Mariana (Elvira Mínguez), who has a toddler from her ex-boyfriend, Gabriel (Paco Pastor Gómez); also, an important character is Fernando (Eduard Fernández), whom I’m presently identifying as Mamma’s brother, but that could be wrong.**

*Not clear if he’s originally Spanish or Argentine (probably makes little difference, unless there’s a cultural distinction I’m missing [if my close friend/academic colleague Mario Cavallari—Argentine of Italian/Spanish heritage—were still alive he’d explain this to me, along with, I think, thoroughly enjoying so much about this film, but I’ll just have to muddle along on my own]).  I will note Darín (a screenwriter and director in addition to being a very successful actor) is from Argentina (of Italian/Syrian-Lebanese heritage), implying a probable answer to my question (although he was granted Spanish citizenship back in 2006 by royal decree because of his many cinematic triumphs).

**I’ve consulted many reviews but find no clarification about him, although Wikipedia’s cast list identifies him as Mariana’s husband, nonsensical given plot points I’ll soon explore.  In context of this narrative, my best guess is he’s the long-suffering (unnamed by me) matriarch’s brother or maybe a close family friend.  In my defense, my 3 viewing companions—all reading the subtitles while I was scribbling my notes—couldn’t verify his identity either; further, Wikipedia says Mariana’s the eldest sister, also indefensible from what we can see on screen in comparing Minguez to Cruz.

 The other crucial members of this cast are Felipe’s uncle, Paco (Javier Bardem)—who long ago was Laura’s lover (left behind at some point in favor of Alejandro)—and his wife, Bea (Bárbara Lennie).  Paco owns a local winery, acquiring the land years ago from Laura when she and her husband needed a quick cash infusion (a situation they wish repeated now as Alejandro’s been unemployed for 2 years, unbeknownst to all these folks); Laura’s family’s still somewhat resentful toward Paco, blaming him for buying the land at a discount price (even though that rested more with Laura, even as she’s been quiet about it for years), adding to Antonio’s general anger as how much of his former holdings now reside with neighbors as he had to sell most of his property to cover debts brought about by his poor command of drinking and gambling 30 years ago (adding salt to his wounds is the fact Paco was once a laborer in Antonio’s fields but now has turned the winery into a more-successful-revenue-producer, but he’s not wealthy either, having reinvested his earnings into his business in order for its growth).  A challenge for non-Spanish-speakers is all these characters are thrown at you quickly in the opening scenes so you really have to keep up with the subtitles to even know for sure who everyone is, how they fit into the family, a task not so easy for me when distracted by furiously taking notes so I missed some needed info superimposed onto the bottom of the screen (that’s what I get for merely studying Spanish in high school and college, not keeping up with it through use), therefore my confusion about Fernando may easily have been clarified; if you happen to see this engaging film please take notice of his position within this extended family, then bring me up to speed.  The first time “Everybody knows” is said it’s by Felipe up in the church bell tower with Irene, noting lover initials on the wall of Laura and Paco (followed by Irene’s instructions to Felipe to add their initials to the collection while she mischievously rings the church bells, distracting from Ana’s wedding taking place below).  The second mention occurs at a family gathering, with someone referencing their commonly-understood-“secret” about Irene actually being Paco’s daughter, resulting from Laura's short trip back to Spain after moving to Buenos Aires before Paco’d met Bea (although Laura was already married to Alejandro at the time).

 Despite power going off throughout the town during the jubilant wedding reception in Antonio’s large courtyard (he and his wife still have a sizable house, easily enough room for the several family members and guests)—Paco saves the night by bringing in a portable generator—followed by a steady rainstorm, everyone keeps on celebrating although Irene suddenly gets very tired (Laura attributes it to jetlag), goes upstairs to sleep in a room shared with her little brother.  When Laura comes to check on her a bit later, she finds the daughter's bed empty, the close-by-bathroom-door locked, so when there’s no response to her door-banging some of the men break it down to find the room empty with no sign of Irene anywhere on the grounds.  Laura, Paco, Bea, and Fernando drive around to look for her, pass by a downed power line (responsible for the outage), but find no trace of Irene nor any useful information from Felipe, who’s possibly suspected of drugging her wine to aid with the disappearance (when he admits these young lovers had toyed with the idea of running off together somewhere).  Soon the concern turns to crisis when Laura receives a text demanding 300,000 Euros ransom, an amount she has no hope of raising.  Fernando’s friend, Jorge (José Ángel Edigo), a retired cop, tries to help the family figure out the motive for the kidnapping (as quickly as possible because Irene needs her medications), even with the thought Alejandro—on his way to Spain as fast as he can get there after Laura calls him—might have orchestrated the crime as a means of getting needed cash (his business back home was to apply for a job which he didn’t get) when it becomes clear how broke he and Laura are.  A further confusion comes when Bea gets the same next text as Laura, with Jorge’s realization someone close by must be monitoring the family’s actions (or it’s an inside job?) so he encourages Laura and Paco to go through the motions of asking around for the money, slowing these kidnappers from acting on their threat to harm Irene.

 The pace really picks up (not that it’d been tranquil for long previously) when Alejandro arrives with tension between him and Paco—after Laura told Paco about Irene’s paternity, despite her promise to keep it secret (even as her family assumed this truth anyway)—along with Alejandro's unwillingness to make some desperate attempt to get the needed cash (which Paco raised by selling his part of the wine-estate to his long-time-partner, yet Alejandro refused to take it from him), calling on God for a solution.  In the process of all this, we (but no one in the story) learn the kidnappers are Gabriel and his friend (who hates Paco for some reason I didn’t follow), aided by Mariana, who plotted out the entire crime (including drugging their victim, causing the power outage, leaving newspaper clippings of an earlier kidnapping on Irene’s bed when she’s taken [Where's Liam Neeson when you need him?]), seemingly to provide the necessary funds for an escape with their child (apparently, she wasn’t estranged from him after all).  In response to the latest text on where to drop the money, Paco races there, is distracted by a splash in the nearby river allowing the young guys to grab the money from his truck, replacing it with bound-and-gagged-Irene (not blindfolded, so did she ever see her kidnappers’ faces?), desperately needing medical attention.  Paco calls Laura, she and Alejandro hurry to take their daughter to a hospital, then their family soon heads back to Argentina, leaving Paco broke, resourceless, now without Bea (unhappy to learn the truth about Irene, despite that fertile-one-night-stand many years ago not a direct betrayal of her marriage), with Momma (remember her?) making the connection between Mariana and the kidnapping based on similar mud on the shoes of her daughter (who visited Felipe’s hideout in the woods at night, demanding he finish the exchange) and Irene, so the film ends on an unresolved fadeout as she’s about to share this disturbing news with Fernando.⇐

So What? Another weekend rolled by with my continued marginal interest in what’s selling massive box-office-tickets (among them—check our recent postings for others—are How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World [Dean DeBlois; worldwide gross after 2 weeks $380.4 million, $99.5 million of that domestically {U.S.-Canada}], Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral [Perry as writer-director-star, $28.8 million domestically just in its debut week], Fighting with My Family [Stephen Merchant, $15.3 million domestically after 3 weeks]—although I did have some thoughts about this one considering all those years I was a dedicated watcher of WWE pro-wrestling-soap-operas until I just got tired of the shtick [a few years ago before lead-character-Paige’s glory days], except for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, another potential reason to see Fighting …, though you get a nice dose of him in the trailer), even as I’m glad to see Green Book (Peter Farrelly, 2018; review in our November 29, 2018 posting) get a wider release, some extra cash (up to $190.5 million worldwide [$76.2 million domestically]) after winning the Best Picture Oscar (despite various complaints against it, along with my ongoing preference for Vice [Adam McKay, 2018; review in our January 10, 2019 posting—4½ stars!]).  Given those limitations and having already seen others you might want to check into if you haven’t already (note our Blog Archive in the right-hand-sidebar for January and February postings), my easy choice was to see Everybody Knows given Farhadi’s fabulous earlier successes with A Separation (2012; review in our February 22, 2012 posting) and The Salesman (2016; review in our February 16, 2017 posting), both winning Oscars as Best Foreign Language Film.  Overall, I made a good choice here, although there are a few plot aspects decreasing the value a bit (admittedly, maybe I missed explanations in the subtitles while taking notes in the dark), so I don’t know how Fernando fits into this family’s structure (although he’s there almost all the time [he's on the far right in the photo above, Mamma's next to him; Mariana, with her child, is second from left]), I'd like to know more about Mamma given her crucial role at the end, ⇒I don’t know what’s turned one of the kidnappers so strongly against Paco, nor do I know what’s the motivation behind the crime itself—to provide financial support for Mariana and Gabriel or more of the family’s resentment of Paco’s purchase of their land as well as being Irene’s clandestine father? Finally, what’s to come next after Mamma reveals her secret to Fernando: Will the schemers be brought to justice? Will Paco get his money, career, and/or wife back?  Will Irene ever know the truth about Paco?⇐   There’s a lot left hanging here we’d benefit from knowing more about, but I still find this film more interesting than many of the reviewers I’ve read during my searching for Mamma’s name.

Bottom Line Final Comments: You might not have an easy a time locating Everybody Knows if you’re interested in it because, despite being out for a month, it’s now playing in only 209 domestic theaters (138 of them just coming along last weekend), its measly $1.3 million gross so far may not encourage much wider distribution before it slips away into videoland.  Critical support’s not much of a factor either, with 75% of the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes being of the positive variety (which sometimes doesn’t take much, given the negative comments I read in some of those reviews only to see the film given a ripe red tomato rather than a green splat) while the reviews at Metacritic are in their frequent-middle-range 68% average score (with that site’s more-mysterious-process of assigning numbers to reviews despite no such designations from the involved critics)I admit (as noted above) I’m a bit frustrated with it due to not fully being able to always follow who’s who or what their place in this story truly is (maybe being written in Farsi, translated to Spanish also contributes here), but that doesn’t keep me from being mostly satisfied with the combination of crime-mystery-plot, intense-interactions among the principals, and the always-satisfying-screen-presences of Cruz and Bardem (married off-screen, aiding in their depictions of the smoldering, unresolved attraction between Laura and Paco) with the crisis of Irene’s disappearance reigniting passions, pushing them back together in a mutual quest complicated by Alejandro’s presence as the teen’s lifelong role of loving father even if he doesn’t have biological credentials accompanying his care for the child.  To finalize my response to this film I’ll turn to appropriate observations on the complex human condition explored here and in this Musical Metaphor from Leonard Cohen, his song also entitled “Everybody Knows” (from the 1988 album I’m Your Man) at com/watch?v=T4rf7bAApM4 (a live 1988 performance with great audio, marginal video, or maybe you’d prefer this version using the recording with added imagery, plus lyrics below the YouTube screen).  Based on what I’ve said about the film so far I think these words are self-evident in their relevance so I’ll yield the floor to Cohen: “Everybody knows that the dice are loaded Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed Everybody knows the war is over Everybody knows the good guys lost […] The poor stay poor, the rich get rich That’s how it goes Everybody knows […] Everybody got this broken feeling Like their father or their dog just died […] Everybody knows that you’ve been faithful Ah, give or take a night or two Everybody knows you’ve been discreet But there were so many people you just had to meet Without your clothes And everybody knows […] But there’s gonna be a meter on your bed That will disclose What everybody knows.”  So, listen up, Fernando.

 In addition to my official Musical Metaphor, just above, though, I couldn’t help but add another one of a more whimsical intent, with the understanding that metaphors are allowed to stretch our understandings, not just verify them with close associations; thus, I give you Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” (from his 1972 Paul Simon solo-debut-album) at (this is the official music video for the song, oddly not made until 1988, a metaphorical-counterpoint of its own which completely ignores the unspecified crime of the lyrics to show upbeat attitudes from a wide variety of kids in a schoolyard playing basketball and stickball, sometimes with Simon, along with guest appearances by Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, Spud Webb, Mickey Mantle, and John Madden).  This certainly isn’t an item-by-item reflection of Everybody Knows, but I have an idea someday soon Laura’s “mama pajama [… is going to roll] out of bed [… and run] to the police station,” just as her daughter, Mariana, along with the young woman’s mysterious lover, Gabriel, could substitute for this song’s singer and Julio because their kidnapping plot against Irene (ultimately against Paco) “was against the law What the mama saw [figured out, actually] It was against the law.”  I’m not sure Laura equates to “Rosie, the Queen of Corona” (a neighborhood in NYC’s borough of Queens, close to where I once lived for a couple of years in Flushing [Simon—and Art Garfunkel—are from another nearby Queens neighborhood, Forest Hills, also home to Marvel's Peter Parker/Spider-Man]) but she’s well-thought-of in her home village because of the church repairs Alejandro paid for as well as for her family’s heritage despite Papa Antonio’s frequent drunken outbursts about the loss of his land.  But don’t stretch this too far to call Paco the “radical priest [who] Come to get me released,” because the pain and humiliation Mariana, Gabriel, and that other kid (with the unspecified grudge against Paco) caused him will likely result in some retaliation someday more likely to be on the cover of True Crime than Newsweek.  Anyway, it’s been a fun additional Metaphor for me (despite having used this song, as a minor connection to Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion” [from that same album] in a very recent posting about the Oscar-nominated Animated Short Films [February 21, 2019], a habit I normally try to avoid so you won’t get bored with my musical choices, but “Me and Julio …” just fit too well here [plus, the whistling’s better from this recording than with that earlier live performance video, or if you’d like an alternate version of the whistling here’s another live performance, from 2015, with Stephen Colbert providing accompaniment—and dancing—for Simon, also a lot of fun to watch])

 Finally, for anyone out there who’s not a dedicated-Donald Trump-supporter (if you are, you might as well click off or scroll farther down now; also, if you are, I can’t imagine what’s brought you back to Film Reviews from Two Guys in the Dark given my delight in frequent anti-Trump comments in many reviews since 2016, but you’re always welcome here anyway if you can tolerate my opinions), you might enjoy reading about another metaphor, the use of a literary/cinema-related-reference in this commentary from Maureen Dowd (of the “failing” New York Times), “The Sycophant and the Sociopath,” comparing political/legal actions of Michael Cohen and Donald Trump to Renfield and Dracula.  If you tire of seeing newscasts about these guys you might want to rewatch any version of this story (from Tod Browning's Dracula [1931] [this scene's even better relative to Cohen as a “rat”] or the Spanish-language-version of that rendition [done at Universal at night, same sets but different cast] directed by George Melford or Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula [1992; except for the bookend damnation/salvation scenes a mostly faithful account of the original novel, using very-early-cinema-techniques rather than modern special effects]) with that comparison in mind.  (Of course, you’ll need to ignore the later Universal sequels as well as the much later Hammer Studios revival of this character as the Count’s presence in those stories won’t give you much—if anything—about his subjugation of Renfield, who [unlike Cohen ?], wasn’t given any hope of salvation from the trance he endured until his cruel demise at the hands of his master.)
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Here’s more information about Everybody Knows: (43:40 interview with screenwriter-director Asghar Farhadi, actors Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darín, and producer Álvaro Longoria, Alexandre Mallet-Guy [there’s lot of translation into English here from Spanish and Farsi, but you can also activate the Closed Captions option on the YouTube screen which might help keep focus where there are 2 languages going on simultaneously on this video’s soundtrack—with only a few minor distractions in the process of speech to written words])

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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website,, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come. 
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 37,723 (as always, we thank all of you for your support with our hopes you’ll continue to be regular readers); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:


  1. Amazing ..Thankyou & keep going to post this type of news everyday.. for more watch latest trailers 2019

  2. Hi Rstartv, Thanks for the comment. Ken