Everybody Knows Except the One Who Counts

Weddings, even those that begin as joyous occasions, often bring to the surface long-simmering feuds. In Everybody Knows, Laura (Penélope Cruz) travels from Argentina back to her family home in Spain to attend the wedding of her sister, Ana (Inma Cuesta). Although Laura’s husband, Alejandro (Ricardo Darín), stays behind, her son, Diego (Iván Chavero), and teenage daughter, Irene (Carla Campra), come with her. Laura’s arrival is the occasion for much excitement, but her presence sets into motion a string of events that upend relationships and create a life or death crisis.

Iranian Director Asghar Farhadi, who also wrote the screenplay, has produced an intriguing film about family ties and how secrets may come back to haunt us. Midway, however, we land in a thriller as Laura works against time to pull off a rescue.

Bárbara Lennie and Javier Bardem 

Laura is happy to see her father, Antonio (Ramón Barea), yet she’s alarmed by how much he has aged. Once the wealthy owner of a vineyard, Antonio’s gambling forced the family to sell to Paco (Javier Bardem), who now runs the business with his wife, Bea (Bárbara Lennie). Paco and Laura were once romantically involved and she handled the sale of the vineyard to Paco, the price still being challenged by Antonio and others as too low. Adding insult to injury: Paco, whose mother was once a servant to Laura’s family, has succeeded where Antonio failed, making the vineyard profitable and able to support many local workers.

While Laura greets the rest of her family – older sister, Mariana (Elvira Mínguez), her husband, Fernando (Eduard Fernández), and their daughter, Rocío (Sara Sálamo), who has a baby and is separated from her husband – Irene wastes no time connecting with Paco’s nephew, Felipe (Sergio Castellanos). Soon, the two are on a motorbike, racing down a dusty road, nearly colliding with Paco’s truck. During the wedding, the young couple steal up to the church’s tower. Irene grabs the bell’s rope, the loud clanging interrupting the wedding service.

The wedding reception, held in the family home, becomes a village celebration, with young and old enjoying food, wine, and music. A trio hired by Bea films the festivities. When Irene becomes ill, possibly from drinking too much, Laura brings her upstairs and puts her to bed. Hours later, Laura finds that Irene is missing. Scattered on the bed are clippings about a famous kidnapping. That young girl’s body was found at the bottom of a well. 

The ransom request is sent to Laura and to Bea. The kidnappers demand 300,000 Euros and threaten Irene’s life if the police are called in. The family assumes Laura has the resources to pay the ransom. Alejandro’s donation to repair the village church has led many to believe he’s very wealthy. In reality, he’s bankrupt and hasn’t worked for two years. When Alejandro arrives in the village, his attitude – that God will save Irene – angers Laura.

Javier Bardem, Eduard Fernández, Ricardo Darín, and Penélope Cruz 

Fernando convinces Laura to consult with Jorge (José Ángel Egido), a retired police officer. Skeptical that the kidnapping is the work of a professional team, Jorge tells Laura to consider someone closer to home. Looking for clues to Irene’s disappearance, the wedding video becomes prime time viewing, a sober exercise that contrasts with the exuberance seen on the screen. Jorge also suggests that Laura and the family create the impression they are working to raise the ransom. As part of that strategy, Paco approaches his partner in the vineyard and offers to sell his share, something he has resisted in the past. Is Paco just playing along, or would his love for Laura dictate his action?

Some real life couples fail to generate heat on the screen. That’s not the situation with Cruz and Bardem. Laura and Paco never kiss, yet the two actors convey intense feelings through eye contact and small gestures. Laura’s anguish is palpable, her physical and emotional appearance worsening as the days drag on. Paco’s suffering begins to mirror Laura’s, something that unsettles Bea. And because Bea arranged the videographers and is also receiving text messages from the kidnappers, she begins to come under suspicion.

The standout performance is by Carla Campra.  As Irene, she appears briefly in the beginning of the film, but makes such a forceful impression that we miss her presence and care about her safety. 

Cinematography by José Luis Alcaine is glorious, whether capturing the sun splashed Spanish countryside, the chaotic wedding celebration, or the facial expressions of Laura and others awaiting news from Irene’s captors. Farhadi keeps things moving, building tension. The scenes never feel overly long or choppy. 

Filmed in Spanish, the film’s title, Everyone Knows or Todos lo saben, perhaps gives away too much. But even when we suspect plot points in advance, we still enjoy watching them unfold.

Photo Credit: Teresa Isasi/Focus Features
Top: Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem

About Charlene Giannetti (389 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that completed filming on February 1, 2020. Charlene divides her time between homes in Manhattan and Alexandria, Virginia.