The Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has no problems working in a language that isn’t his own, and in the drama “Everybody Knows” he finds marital strife in a Spanish village just as easily as he has in a Tehran apartment building in “A Separation” and “The Salesman.”
Laura (Penélope Cruz) has just arrived from Buenos Aires back to this village in Spain, and her sister Ana (Imma Cuesta) has picked her, along with Laura’s 16-year-old daughter Irene (Carla Campra) and young son Diego (Ivan Chávero), up at the airport. Ana’s getting married, to Joan (Roger Casamajor), and everyone is staying at the family hotel, now run by oldest sister Mariana (Elvira Mínguez) and her husband Fernando (Eduard Fernández).
Being a small town, it’s not long before Laura runs into Paco (Javier Bardem), who runs a prosperous winery just outside of town. Paco is shown giddily in love with his wife, Bea (Barbara Lennie), but its no secret in the village that Paco and Laura were in love with each other when they were teens.
Also being a small town, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that Laura’s Argentine husband, Alejandro (Ricardo Darîn), didn’t come with his family on this trip.
The wedding goes off smoothly, except for the church bells going off at the wrong time — because Irene is flirting with Paco’s nephew Felipe (Sergio Castellanos) in the clock tower during the service. The reception, in the courtyard of the family hotel, is a boisterous affair with music and plenty of Paco’s wine. But the merriment ends abruptly, when Laura notices Irene has gone missing.
What follows, in Farhadi’s intense script, are recriminations, accusations, old grudges, and one big family secret that’s revealed when Laura is at her most desperate.
Farhadi keeps the tension drum-tight, often with little more than raw, emotional dialogue and a powerful ensemble cast. Leading the way are Cruz and Bardem, as the married-in-real-life Oscar winners grab onto their meaty roles with both hands and extract the maximum dramatic energy from them.
Farhadi plays with the audience’s expectations, right down to the title. In this small town, it’s assumed that everybody knows everyone else’s secrets — but what’s most compelling in Farhadi’s story is how nobody knows what they’ll do when things are at their worst.
Opened February 8 in select cities; opens Friday, March 8, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas (Salt Lake City). Rated R for some language. Running time: 124 minutes; in Spanish with subtitles.