Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman) seeks to exploit those tensions in his new Spanish language drama Todos lo saben (Everybody Knows). While it doesn't break any new ground and it often comes across as a stereotypical "girl gone missing" flick, the film benefits from terrific performances courtesy of Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. The movie opens at the Cedar Lee Theatre on Friday.
At the film's start, Laura (Cruz), a Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires, returns with her two children to her hometown outside Madrid for the first time in several years. She's there for her younger sister Ana's (Inma Cuesta) wedding and gleefully calls her husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darin) when she arrives to tell him she's safe, hoisting her cell phone out the car's sunroof to show him the Spanish countryside.
Alejandro has stayed behind because, as Laura tells everyone, he couldn't get the time away from work. Laura's family understands. They revere Alejandro, a wealthy businessman who contributed to the restoration of the town's small church. They don't feel the same way about Paco (Bardem), Laura's old flame who now owns a vineyard. They still resent the fact that Laura sold him the parcel of land for a song when she was in dire straits.
After a beautiful wedding ceremony, Laura and her relatives are partying in a courtyard when Laura realizes her daughter Irene (Carla Campra), who hit the sack early after she started to feel light-headed, has gone missing. Irene, a real wild child who climbs the church tower to ring the bell during the wedding, can be reckless, so when Laura receives a text message demanding a ransom if she ever wants to see Irene again, Laura initially thinks it might be a joke.
It quickly becomes apparent, however, that it's not a joke. Irene has been abducted, and the kidnappers threaten to kill her if Laura goes to the police. She enlists the help of a retired detective instead, and after asking Laura a series of questions about her relationship with Paco and her husband's supposed wealth, the guy concludes it's an inside job. With that knowledge, Laura becomes suspicious of everyone around her. Paco and his wife Bea (Bárbara Lennie) also meet with the detective, and they too begin to suspect Laura's family of having kidnapped the girl to take revenge on Paco for "stealing" their land all those years ago.
The truth, of course, is more complicated than all of that, and things are spiraling out of control when Alejandro comes to town to help Laura in the search for their daughter. Paco becomes particularly obsessed with the situation and even watches videos of other kidnapping victims, something that Irene's kidnappers trigger by leaving newspaper clippings on the bed where Irene slept before she disappeared. He offers to sell his estate so that he can come up with the cash the kidnappers have demanded.
While the film's twists and turns don't all feel like they're natural, the movie sustains a good amount of suspense for its 132-minute running time. The scenes in which Laura and Paco revisit their past and continue to try to reconcile their differences help distinguish this drama from others with a similar storyline.