Photo: Focus Features
by Paul Attard Film Horizon Line

Everybody Knows | Asghar Farhadi

March 22, 2019

Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi understands the nature of secrets and their revelations, that they rarely signal resolution and instead work to further complicate situations. Whenever one of his characters confesses to some long-standing deception or discloses a crushing truth, the weight of this disclosure is always brutally felt. So perhaps the most damning thing one can say about his latest film, Everybody Knows (which premiered last year at Cannes and has now indifferently been dumped into art houses nationwide), is that the ‘truth’ here feels utterly uninspired, at least compared to the typically high standards Farhadi has established in the past decade. Here, the familial drama, which involves Laura (Penelope Cruz) and her quest to rescue her kidnapped daughter, plays out in frustratingly sterile fashion.

The film is largely composed of crudely-drawn thematic sketches posturing as emotional dilemmas, all of which are quickly resolved only to progress to the next poorly constructed twist. The majority of these admissions (e.g. the murky paternity of the kidnapped girl) are but means to ends, lazily slapped together and ultimately empty – Pauline Kael’s thoughts on Alfred Hitchcock’s Topaz readily apply here, as Farhadi “really expects us to accept” the recycled indulgences that are thrown at us. Everybody Knows lacks the immediacy and edge that propelled A Separation, and it doesn’t possess the twisted moral center found in The Salesman. More precisely and simply, it is a lesser entry from one of world cinema’s most prominent auteurs, a superficial retread offering soulless mimicry of his typically humanist narratives.

Published as part of Before We Vanish | Issue 2.