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Everybody Knows

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Everybody Knows Movie Poster Image
Slow kidnap story is more soggy soap than tense thriller.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 132 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Asks vague questions about what parents are willing to do for their own children -- and other people's children. But the movie doesn't go very deep, actually avoids the question more often than it tackles it. But perhaps it's worth discussion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

One character performs hugely selfless task to protect another's well-being, but movie's themes call his motives into question: How pure are they; would he have done the same in different circumstances?

Violence

A teen girl is kidnapped (not shown). Written threats about killing her. Arguing/yelling. Shoving. Men roughhouse at a  wedding. Man with cut, bleeding wound on hand.

Sex

Some sex-related talk. Teens flirt and kiss. A married couple flirts.

Language

A few uses of "f--k," plus "bitch," "son of a bitch," "goddamn," "hell," "crap," "scumbag."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character is drunk and surly in a bar. Teens sneak a drink and cigarettes at wedding; one later seems drunk/sick. Lots of social drinking at a wedding. A character runs a winery. Speaking to high schoolers about making wine; a teen asks if he can drink some. Casual cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Everybody Knows is a mature Spanish-language drama about the kidnapping of a teen girl. The kidnapping itself isn't shown, but there are threats, arguing, yelling, and general tension. A tiny bit of blood is shown when a character gets a cut/wound. Teens flirt and kiss; married couples also flirt, and there's some sex-related talk. Abortion is mentioned. Language includes a few uses of "f--k," "bitch," "goddamn," etc. Social drinking is prevalent at a wedding, and teens sneak some wine and cigarettes (one is shown to be sick/drunk afterward). A minor character is shown drunk and surly in a bar, and characters smoke cigarettes. Despite being directed by Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi and starring Oscar-winning actors Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, the movie is a bit tiresome; it's more of a long, slow soap opera than a tense crime story.

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What's the story?

In EVERYBODY KNOWS, a big family assembles for a wedding in a small town outside Madrid. Laura (Penelope Cruz) arrives from Argentina with her teen daughter, Irene (Carla Campra), and young son. Her husband, Alejandro (Ricardo Darin), who's been out of work, stays behind. Already there is Paco (Javier Bardem), who's now married to Bea (Barbara Lennie), though he and Laura were childhood sweethearts. The family has a grudge against Paco for buying their land cheap and turning it into a profitable winery. Other family dramas come out -- breakups, aging parents, etc. -- and then the wedding begins. It's a joyous celebration, and it goes late into the night. Then the power goes off, and when Laura goes looking for Irene, she has vanished. A ransom text appears; the kidnappers want $300,000. How will they get the money, and what other secrets will be revealed in the meantime?

Is it any good?

This might have been a pretty good kidnapping story, but writer/director Asghar Farhadi goes soft; he slows it down to the point of almost stopping it and emphasizes goopy, over-the-top soap opera. The story of Everybody Knows stays almost entirely with the family; the kidnappers aren't shown until the end. The movie does bring in a savvy ex-cop character who gives hints -- such as that the kidnapper had inside information and could be someone close -- but the movie never provides any useful puzzle pieces. In one scene, several members of the family watch the wedding video intently, looking for any kind of clue; the scene goes on for minutes, but ... nothing.

Instead, Farhadi seems to want to focus on the motivations of parents and children, but he ends up avoiding the issue more than he explores it. The movie's main drive comes with revealing big secrets with a gasp, but there isn't any suspense or buildup, or any kind of puzzle. It's no fun. Farhadi is a double Oscar winner in the Best Foreign Language Film category (A Separation, The Salesman), but here he pitches everything too high; he seems lost when it comes to making movies for mainstream audiences. The main saving grace is real-life married couple Cruz and Bardem, who've shared the screen many times and have a strong chemistry. Their nuanced performances often manage to keep the shrill drama of Everybody Knows on a more level playing field.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Everybody Knows. What's shown and not shown? How did it make you feel? Is the violence thrilling or shocking? How did the filmmakers achieve this?

  • In the movie, teens are shown kissing, riding motorcycles, drinking wine, and smoking. Is any of that behavior glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • What does the movie have to say about adults' responsibility toward children? Do they have to be related to the children to care?

Movie details

For kids who love drama and thrills

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