Movie Review: ‘Everybody Knows’ is Another Devastating But Enriching Work From Asghar Farhadi

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CREDIT: Teresa Isasi/Focus Features

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darín

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Running Time: 132 Minutes

Rating: R for Spanish Profanity

Release Date: February 8, 2019 (Limited)

If you sit down to watch Everybody Knows, you will probably wonder, “What is it that everybody knows?” I know I certainly did. About a half hour or so in, I had a pretty good idea of what it could be, then that suspicion grew into a more fully formed guess, and ultimately my powers of deduction proved to be precisely on point. I do not say this to toot my own horn, but rather, to explain that Everybody Knows makes the answers to its central mystery crystal clear. Far from being frustrated by obviousness, I appreciated that it guided me to exactly where it wanted me to go.

Having previously seen The Salesman and now this latest feature, I know the films of Asghar Farhadi to be about the trauma of outside forces testing the strength of familial units. In this case, the kidnapping of a teenage girl is the impetus for revealing one family’s most sacred secrets. Laura (Penélope Cruz) is a Spanish woman living in Argentina who has returned to her hometown with her two kids in tow for a wedding. When her daughter Irene (Carla Crampa) disappears, she is forced to resolve what lingers from the past with her childhood friend and former lover Paco (Javier Bardem). Farhadi has a knack for understanding that the potential paths of highly stressful situations can swing on a pendulum from further disaster to healing reconciliation. The resolution of Everybody Knows is profoundly, cathartically satisfying – the work of a master craftsman operating like clockwork.

Everybody Knows is Recommended If You Like: Asghar Farhadi’s filmography, The Vanishing

Grade: 4 out of 5 Family Secrets

This Is a Movie Review: The Salesman

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This review was originally published on News Cult in January 2017.

Starring: Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Running Time: 125 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Scars Both Physical and Emotional

Release Date: January 27, 2017 (Limited)

The Iranian film The Salesman (an Oscar nominee this year for Foreign Language Film) starts off as a sort of slice-of-life tale that is a bit of a bummer. Then its climax turns it into a major bummer – a life-altering journey through hell. Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) are a young couple whose move to a new house coincides with their work on a production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. It turns out that the former occupant of their new place may have been a prostitute, which they discover when a former client shows up and leaves Rana bruised and bloodied.

Following the attack, The Salesman is a study in the day-to-day of young artistic professionals in Iran (it does not feel too different than it often does in America or Europe), but with the dark cloud of post-traumatic stress hanging over. Rana is hardly able to bear any time alone, and the dramatic weight of the play is too much for her to get through. (I am uncertain why Death of a Salesman was chosen as the production. Any thematic connection to Emad and Rana’s story is rather oblique – not a criticism, just an observation.) The acting is pleasantly naturalistic, and there is a cute child performance, but it is an unpleasant watch that just glides along uneasily thanks to an otherwise peaceful existence being rocked by violence.

For the last act, The Salesman really leans into that unease, making the experience even more painful but also more rewarding. Emad has declined to go to the police, instead taking the investigation into his own hands. When the culprit turns out to be someone completely unexpected, a whole Pandora’s Box of moral conundrums spills open. There is no happy way for this to end, and writer/director Asghar Farhadi (A SeparationThe Past) does not shy away from any of the devastating implications. The feeling you get after watching The Salesman is the definition of “shook.”

The Salesman is Recommended If You LikePrisoners

Grade: 4 out of 5 Pleas for Forgiveness