Everybody Knows

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Everybody Knows

Everybody Knows hands us a plot that is hard to follow but intriguing enough to hold us. Because there is no way to describe the plot details without ruining the suspense, let’s start with a short description of writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s family drama.

Laura (Penelope Cruz), who moved to Venezuela when she married, has come home to Spain for the wedding of her sister. With her are her teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra) and her very much younger son. Her husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darin) remains in Venezuela looking for a job. The bearded middle-aged Paco (Javier Bardem), an old friend from long ago, is one of the guests.

Laura’s daughter Irene immediately locks eyes with a young man. When she leads him to play with risk in the clock tower, we know Irene is deeply driven by a streak of rebellion. Quite suddenly, during the wedding and the early scenes of the movie, she is kidnapped and the wedding itself turns into the scene for the whole complex plot.

We watch the relationships unfold while wondering whether the kidnapper is part of the assembled crowd. A sudden storm knocks out electricity and bathes the whole in candlelight. How can a murder mystery in candlelight be anything but fun?

As you watch the beauty of the wedding, the church and the guests, the question of who the kidnapper is takes second place. We know director Asghar Farhadi will give us that answer when he’s ready.

Against this grand portrait of a Spanish location, you have a scared mother, a missing daughter and the mother’s relationship with the wedding guests. All are delivered by good actors in a somewhat murky story script. Why does no one report the disappearance of young Irene to some authority? The only possibility is that this provides the backdrop for the revelations that are unfolding gradually. We can’t learn who the villain is too early. Irene’s disappearance offers us the time and tools to explore the relationships among the others. The wedding itself becomes a tool that gives us the feel and character of the church, the minister, the wedding, and the town. Toss in the crisis and an arriving husband, stir the plot, and we sit there enjoying the fine acting of the whole cast set in a beautiful place.

In addition to an odd plot, we face another problem common to today’s movies. The two bearded Spanish men look alike; the two sisters and Paco’s wife look alike. It’s too easy to excuse this as family resemblance. When a writer drops us into a crowded wedding in an unfamiliar country, he shouldn’t give us the added burden of casting a crowd of guests and principals who look alike. We forgive him because the pace is brisk and he gives us a good story full of actors who deliver the story so well that we’re glad we came – even if we can’t tell them apart.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Everybody Knows
Word Count : 495
Running Time: 2:13
Rating : R
Date : March 3, 2019

Transit

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Transit

History hits every age group differently, sometimes with inconceivable hardship. In wartime, transit can be the zone that harbors survivors on the losing side. This is the story of Georg, a quiet man who faces internment and death if he fails to get on a ship sailing for Mexico or America. Transit, the movie, captures all this.

Writer/director Christian Petzold has accomplished the impossible by ignoring the specifics of any particular war. He has chosen to show us that all wars leave rootless survivors. Georg (Franz Rogowski) is the symbol of the tragedy of war.

The story opens with Georg caring for a dying man while hidden together in an empty room. When the man dies, Georg assumes his identity as an author and uses his unfinished manuscript to secure his own right to passage out of the country. He moves quietly through the time leading to the departure date, always in danger from the soldiers who are searching for their victims.

As fear and loneliness deepen in Georg, we in the audience begin to feel the despair of having no home, family or friends while being on the conquerors’ death list. In a dirty alley, he befriends a little boy. Every military sound forces him to run, to hide from the soldiers hunting for people without papers. Rootless, homeless and in danger, he meets people as he sneaks through the streets – the boy, the woman, the inspector. The depth of their tragedy and shame sinks into us with force.

“Who is the first to forget when one leaves? The leaver or the one who is left?” He loves the woman (Paula Beer) who is looking for her husband. Are hers the tears of new joy or despair? He never knows. For another woman, the despair is too much. He returns to the boy’s family apartment to help. They are gone too; their home is full of refugees.

Georg and the few people he meets have all been emotionally destroyed by loss and danger. The depth of their loneliness sinks into the audience. Aren’t all of history’s wars killing grounds where survivors carry deep emotional wounds? That is the unvarnished question asked by this story.

How has director Petzold given us this astonishing movie in a way that the audience sits in total silence and never wonders where, when, how? By not fussing over dates or places or the issues of this war, he focuses on the ruin of all wars by showing us one man who is hunted, alone, and marked for death.

After one country wins, survivors are on the run with no way back to their old lives and no way forward to new ones. Life and death, today and tomorrow have become phantom concepts for them. The director has taken us into the dark of their lives in a way that has put the characters in grim emptiness and the audience in stunned silence. What a symbol Georg is.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Transit 1
Word Count : 501
Running Time: 1:01
Rating : R
Date : May 10, 2019

This review was posted on March 10, 2019, in Drama.