MOVIE REVIEW: Power of lost love is tested
Two-time Best Foreign Language Film Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman, A Separation) is a proven master when it comes to charting the fault lines in male-female relationships.
While the muted mysteries posed by Everybody Knows won't come to be regarded alongside his finest works, it is still a worthy option for viewers in need of a fix of sophisticated storytelling.
Laura (Penelope Cruz) and Paco (Javier Bardem) used to be lovers in their close-knit home town in Spain a long time ago. Then she upped and left, marrying an older, richer man across the seas in Argentina.
Now Laura is back home for his sister's wedding. Her children have come along for the visit. Her husband has not.
Everybody recalls the thing Laura once had with Paco. Especially his wife, Bea (Barbara Lennie).
So begins a slow, sprawling and steadily involving melodrama, examining whether the heat once generated by an old flame is ever truly cooled.
A chain of events resulting in the disappearance of Laura's rebellious teenage daughter churns up a vast array of emotions, resentments and regrets. (And also, a vast array of minor characters. This is one movie where you almost need a pad and pencil to keep track of who's who.)
As Laura turns to Paco for help, thoughts of what might have been collide with ideas about what must be done, often in dangerous and revealing ways.
When Laura starts saying things to her former lover that she may not have the right to convey anymore ("you still haven't forgiven me for leaving you") the airs of confusion, longing and loyalty begin to mix in a toxic way.
As commanding as Cruz and Bardem (a married couple in real life) are here, Everybody Knows is a densely detailed movie which will test the patience of any viewer not fully committed to the experience.
There is a twist to the tale that some will see coming very early on. However, it is a sign of the quality in play here that its impact upon arrival is no less devastating despite its predictable nature.
Everybody Knows (M)
Director: Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman)
Starring: Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Barbara Lennie, Carla Campra.
Loving in the past threatens living in the present