Everybody Knows (Todos lo saben)

 

            You know, a botched kidnapping will ruin a good wedding every time.

            Laura (Penelope Cruz) travels all the way from Buenos Aires to Spain to attend her sister's wedding.  She brings her two children, a teenage girl and a little boy, but her husband didn't come.  She says he had to work.  And that's the first of many lies.

            The teenage daughter, Irene (Carla Campra), is kind of a handful.  She spots a cute local boy and immediately goes out with him on his motorcycle, no helmets.  She's a more reckless driver than he is.  She is also more adventurous about exploring the old belfry in the cathdral, where pigeons roost and the bells still chime loudly, yes, even during the wedding service itself, where the priest unashamedly asks for more money for the parish.  And commends Laura's absent husband for his past generosity.

            While the wedding itself is awkward, thanks to the priest's careless begging, the reception is lively and carefree.  Everybody seems to be having a great time.  Irene, uncharacteristically, goes to bed early because she's not feeling well.  Then the lights suddenly go out; it seems a power line is down.  Undeterred, the guests party on with a generator that a family friend, Paco (Javier Bardem) brings from his vineyard.

            Paco, it seems, is more than a family friend, he was once Laura's lover.  They grew up together because Paco's Mom was the live-in maid.  Paco has done well for himself because Laura sold him the family farm, at a time when she and her husband, Alejandro, needed the money.  But it turns out that decision is still resented by the rest of the family, all these years later.  When Laura's irascible father gets drunk, he shouts his still-lingering resentment to anyone who will listen.

            When Irene disappears, they all search frantically, the bride still in her wedding dress.  Irene is nowhere to be found.  Then Laura receives a ransom note from the kidnappers.  And no police.  So the first horrific decision the family must make is whether to call the police, anyway, despite the dire warnings.

            Of course, Laura is beside herself.  Paco helps in the search, but his lovely wife, Bea (Barbara Lennie) starts to resent what seems to her to be his oversolicitousness.  Laura refuses to make a decision about calling the police until Alejandro (Ricardo Darin) shows up.  Everyone knows that he's out of work, and has been for two years.  Everyone knows that he was an alcoholic, and the family thinks Laura could have done much better.  Everyone knows that you don't give ransom money to kidnappers, or else they will just do that again to somebody else, but the longer this goes on, the more desperate everybody becomes.  And everybody knows what happens when the situational pressure cooker turns up the heat:  raw emotionals are laid bare, and costly secrets slip out.

            Writer and Director Asghar Farhadi keeps us memerized with the implications of a conspiracy with a possible traitor.  He's not afraid to show us many mood changes in a matter of minutes.  Though the non-Spanish speaking viewers will be frustrated with the English subtitles, the actors are strong enough to carry us through the dangling conversations, and the story is complex enough to keep us guessing to the end. 

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association