A wedding, a kidnapping, a secret, and a real man make “ Everybody Knows” a captivating mystery thriller. The acting is outstanding and Javier Bardem is every romantic’s dream. His character, Paco, is fun-loving, loyal, self-sacrificing, and comfortable in his skin. He has masterfully risen above his servant station with industry and love of nature’s bounty. His Spanish vineyards are producing excellent wine and his blood pulses through every scene.
Add his youthful sweetheart Laura ( Penelope Cruz ) returning to her small village outside of Madrid for her sister’s wedding without her husband. Paco’s cool wife, Bea ( Barbara Lennie) is wary. Everybody knows they were once on fire. Cinematic devices like bell towers with its roosting pigeons and carved stone graffiti and a majestic thunder-storm keep our emotions in tune. One trope of an ornate iron gate opening and closing is very effective.
The “who dunit” plotline , written and directed by the Iranian director Asgar Farhadi, begins with Laura’s teenage daughter, Irene ( Carla Campra), being taken for ransom. Cruz is amazing as the frantic mother. Suffocating in secrets, Laura calls her husband , Alejandro, in Argentina to come for support. Once a heavy drinker and now bankrupt, he relies on God.
Laura has shared her secret with him, but his ego as the once benefactor of the village church has been bruised. Ricardo Darin, as Alejandro, plays a weaker foil to Paco; and we realize that class distinctions were taught to Laura through her father with ironic and sad outcomes.
Questions of love, family and choice radiate in the film’s rather abrupt closure. The question of who lost whom makes us feel like the video drones viewing all the characters from above. “Everybody knows” is long, but thoroughly engaging.