Tuesday, June 6, 2023


May 9, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

If Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi had made his Cannes Film Festival opener Everybody Knows (Todos lo Saben) in Hollywood, he probably would have been compelled to accouter his kidnap drama with gunplay, chases, and assorted acts of violence. There is none of that here. He has made the film in Spain, in Spanish, with an exceptional cast who include Penélope Cruz, her real-life husband Javier Bardem, and Ricardo Darin. And the opening scenes, introducing members of a family gathering for a small-town wedding, shine with exuberance and beauty. Then the lights go out — figuratively and literally — as a teenage member of the family is kidnaped. At first, it’s presumed that a power failure has occurred, but as the teenager’s mother (Cruz) gropes her way to check in on her — the girl, an asthmatic, had been taken ill during the celebration — she is unable to find her. In her room are newspaper clippings about a deadly kidnaping that had taken place a few years earlier, and soon a ransom demand for 300,000 euros appears on her cell phone. It doesn’t take long, however, before suspicion arises that it’s an inside job and that trickling theory begins to expose crackling fissures in the family that had come together so joyously at the opening. “Farhadi’s storytelling has overpowering force,” commented Peter Bradshaw in his review in Britain’s Guardian newspaper. In Screen Daily, the British trade publication, Lisa Nesselson concluded, “Farhadi pulls off a setting rife with plausible motivations and complex – although never hard to follow – intrigue.” But the two Hollywood trade publications, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, compared the film unfavorably with Farhadi’s earlier work, although Variety‘s Peter Debruge allowed, “Farhadi’s weakest film yet is still better than the vast majority of commercially made dramas in Spain, France or the United States.” But Boyd Van Hoeij, in the Reporter, found it substandard Farhadi, writing, “Instead of another perceptive family drama that examines questions of morals and personal responsibility from different sides, his latest feature … has a more overt genre touch. … The result is an odd, somewhat underwhelming hybrid that’s part talky thriller, part family drama.”