Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows has opened this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and so far critics are greeting it with a resounding “meh.” Expectations were high, as the drama, centered on the kidnapping of a teenage girl in a small town in Spain, sees the Iranian director of such outstanding work as About Elly (2009) and A Separation (2011) teaming up with an illustrious cast led by Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Ricardo Darín (The Secret in Their Eyes). Nonetheless, a sampling of ratings from critics at Ioncinema shows an average of two out of five stars across the board.
In Everybody Knows, as the Telegraph’s Robbie Collin explains, “anyone could be a suspect—and the climate of mutual suspicion brings great bales of dirty laundry rolling out into the sunlight, as open secrets and old resentments, romantic, filial and financial, are furiously parsed for possible hints as to Irene’s whereabouts and fate. . . . Farhadi’s screenplay does an artful job of keeping vital fragments of each of its characters secret until the very end. But the climate of over-determined melodrama is rather less involving.”
“The potential for rich texture is there,” finds Jessica Kiang at the Playlist, but much of the film remains “frustratingly underdeveloped, and sometimes confusing, when it’s so hard to keep the exact relationships between the sprawling supporting cast in focus.”
Also among the skeptical are the Hollywood Reporter’s Boyd van Hoeij, who calls the film “an odd, somewhat underwhelming hybrid that’s part talky thriller, part family drama,” and Variety’s Peter Debruge, who does at least concede that “Farhadi’s weakest film yet is still better than the vast majority of commercially made dramas in Spain, France, or the United States.”
At the Film Stage, Giovanni Marchini Camia has turned in the harshest review yet: “Given the script’s reliance on tropes drawn from an extensive catalogue of kidnapping films, were it injected with a healthy dose of irony, all the overcooked plotting and preposterous intrigue could lend itself quite nicely to an enjoyably pulpy genre exercise à la David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Sadly, Farhadi has never demonstrated any capacity for irony, and instead of a bit of fun, all we get is a self-serious farce.”
A. A. Dowd, writing for the A.V. Club, is more positive, noting that “no one twists domestics into a web of lies like [Farhadi], getting us hooked on the tangle. Fittingly opening within a church clocktower, the film makes clockwork drama out of the mechanics of a family crisis, circumstance conspiring to feed these characters into the grinding gears of truths they’ve withheld or denied. As always, Farhadi leans on an expert cast; his three leads, especially, keep the film from landing like schematic soap, like Almodóvar by math.”
The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw goes even further: “I think something in the performances and the southern European setting has given Farhadi’s filmic language a new sanguine force.”
More from David Acacia (International Cinephile Society), Nicholas Bell (Ioncinema, 2/5), Eric Kohn (IndieWire, B+), Fabien Lemercier (Cineuropa), Lisa Nesselson (Screen), and Joseph Walsh (CineVue, 3/5).
Meantime, as Variety’s Brent Lang reports, Focus Features has taken rights to Everybody Knows and “will distribute the film in the U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, select Asian territories and the Middle East, apart from Iran.”
Update, 5/27: Writing for Filmmaker, Blake Williams suggests that Everybody Knows “could all have been adventurous and fun and destabilizing had Farhadi not taken the affair so seriously.” More from Justin Chang (Los Angeles Times), Lawrence Garcia (Notebook), Nick James (Sight & Sound), Richard Lawson (Vanity Fair), Muhammad Muzammal (Vague Visages), and Stephanie Zacharek (Time).
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