With a “whodunnit”-type mystery at its core, Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows (Todos lo Saben) lays out the type of plot that would make Hitchcock proud. But this is a decidedly understated affair, one that burns slow and prefers to reveal its various twists in an organic manner, rather than displaying them out in shock Hollywood fashion.
It all starts off so innocently and deceptively playful as Laura (Penelope Cruz) returns to her homeland Madrid, her two children in tow but sans husband. The joyous reason for her return is that of her sister’s impending nuptials, but as much gaiety as Farhadi’s feature (his first in Spanish) showcases regarding the ceremony – or more correctly, the reception – there’s a sense of depravity that lingers over each frame.
Our suspicions are tragically realised when Laura, amidst the celebrations, goes to check on her unwell daughter Irene (Carla Campra) only to discover she’s missing. Farhardi delights in the endless possibilities of where the speculation could fall regarding Irene’s disappearance, with Laura herself even unable to escape the pursed eyes of her family members who entertain the notion that she has orchestrated this herself; her absent husband (just why couldn’t he accompany his wife?) and her first love, the alluring Paco (Javier Bardem), also falling victim to the imaginations of her worried family.
Farhardi wants us as an audience to finger-point at the film’s ensemble just as much as its individual characters, and depending how closely you’re looking, the ultimate reveal will either come as a welcome shock or an expected nod; just don’t expect Everybody Knows to bask in its story turns though as it hooks with a beautiful subtlety.
With dynamic turns from both Bardem and Cruz at its centre (separately they are commanding, together, nothing short of heartbreaking), a lush Javier Limon score to balance the film’s tension, and a visual pallet that highlights the natural beauty of Madrid, Everybody Knows is an absorbing, expertly-crafted thriller that continually holds your emotions at ransom before unravelling – somewhat ambiguously – to leave you discussing long after it has gently washed away from the screen.