What I went into the movie knowing: family wedding, family secrets. What I didn’t know, and would come to understand, was the little unifier between the two: kidnapping. Which tends to ruin the wedding part, or dampen it at least, depending on who disappears, but it’s quite fertile in terms of secrets.
Laura (Penelope Cruz) returns to Spain for her little sister’s wedding, her teenage daughter Irene and young son in tow, husband left behind in Argentina for work.
Laura is happy to reconnect with sisters, parents, and dear friend\ex-lover Paco (Javier Bardem), who is himself happily married. Whatever used to be between them seems to have dissolved to merely friendship, though I’m not certain if everyone else is really convinced of that. At any rate, the wedding in the village church is beautiful and nothing can ruin it – not when Irene mischievously rings the bells in the clock tower during mass, and not when the priest takes the opportunity to hint heavily that Laura’s wealthy (but absent) husband should pay for its repair as he did for the church renovations. A reception follows in the courtyard of the family hotel. It is high-spirited, with lots of happy guests drinking, dancing, and making merry. Irene steals one too many unattended glasses of wine and retires to an early bedtime, with her little brother. But then the power goes out and Irene goes missing, which is when things get interesting.
Although I felt the film a tad overlong, Everyone Knows is engrossing thanks to its clever trail of breadcrumbs. A terrific ensemble cast helps pull this off, essential when everyone’s a suspect – even the crime itself is suspicious.
As those all-important first 48 hours tick by, we get to know our characters (or should I say suspects?) at their worst, which is an intimate introduction indeed. Old secrets are unfurled as new ones are forged and kept guarded – soon the whole village is under a dark cloud of tension. And sure, they milk the tension a little longer than is fair. It’s moody and captivating but doesn’t quite know when to call it quits.
Seeing real-life lovers Cruz and Bardem act opposite each other is always a treat, and both get to flex a little – if not to impress us, then each other. Cruz has real fire (her real-life children with Bardem likely help ignite her mama bear instincts), and combined with her seductive beauty, imagine the difficulty I had taking my eyes off her long enough to read the subtitles. The struggle is real – multiplied by however many Penelope-lookalikes hired to play her sisters are on screen at any given time. The film’s got some challenges, you bet, but all obstacles can be overcome given sufficient motivation.