Todos lo saben (2018)
Directed by: Asghar Farhadi | 132 minutes | drama | Actors: Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Jaime Lorente, Ricardo Darín, Bárbara Lennie, Inma Cuesta, Carla Campra, Elvira Mínguez, Sara Sálamo, Eduard Fernández, Roger Casamajor, José Ángel Egido, Ramón Barea
Although Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (‘A Separation’, ‘The Salesman’, ‘Le passé’) has only made his second film outside the borders of his homeland with ‘Todos lo saben’, the two-time Oscar winner has remained thematically close to home. . In his films, questionable choices from the past surface over time and without exception. Actions taken result in an accumulation of fateful repercussions. At first sight it therefore seems that life has a fixed course, because escape from what has been seems impossible. But the way in which someone can give substance to that past betrays a less defined course of development. Choices elicit new choices. Therein lies an effective form of tension.
At first sight this is no different in ‘Todos lo saben’. When Laura (Penélope Cruz) moves with her two children to her Spanish homeland for her sister’s wedding, memories of the past are naturally rekindled. Sometimes joyful, but just as often with a bitter aftertaste. And it is precisely those mementos that have the greatest consequences.
At first it doesn’t seem like much. The reunion with her family is warm. Everyone is looking forward to the wedding, the sun is shining and the children are having a good time. The fact that Laura’s husband didn’t come along is only a small blemish on the revelry. Yet something lurks beneath the surface. The run-up has something ominous because of its relatively long playing time. It is simply too calm and cheerful. Then you notice the considerable distance between the characters, making it seem as if they are never quite in the same space. The camera also takes an appropriate distance, giving the feeling that any danger must be avoided. Something is bubbling. And it’s not very proper.
Then, the wedding is still in full swing, daughter Irene (Carla Campra) disappears. The medicines and inhaler for her asthma are still in her spare room. No one has seen her since she left for bed. Every trace is missing. Until mother Laura gets a message on her phone. The girl has been kidnapped. What was previously dormant is now surfacing.
Like the unannounced stranger, the idea of sudden disappearance is a tried and true way to delve into the psychology of characters. Tensions come under acute pressure. The kidnapping can therefore be seen as an instrument that should give shape to the struggles of those left behind. In that perspective, it really makes little difference how the kidnapping works and whether the girl will be found at all. The past becomes more important than the future.
The consequences of the kidnapping for the characters left behind initially have a penetrating effect in ‘Todos lo saben’. Laura’s large family, each with its own story, provides an extensive intrigue that regularly misleads the viewer. If that’s not enough, ex-boyfriend Paco (Javier Bardem) also gets involved. Past events are increasingly coming to the fore. Due to the fuss over love, money and disputed lands, motives abound. The camera gets closer and closer, but the distance between the characters only seems to get bigger.
Despite this tasteful psychological joust, after a while the focus shifts back to the how and why of the kidnapping. As a result, the film gets bogged down in a kind of indifference that drastically lowers the tension. The mutual relations remain under pressure, but no longer with the intensity before. As a result, ‘Todos lo saben’ lacks the decisiveness and absolute fatality of Farhadi’s Iranian films.