Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem’s whodunit starts frisky, but ends up a trudge

Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem’s whodunit starts frisky, but ends up a trudge

If you’re in the mood to watch a middle-aged man with untidy hair walk around town trying to solve a mystery mired in themes of race, family and class, Asghar Farhadi has you covered.

The feted Iranian director has made the above his hyper-specific stock-in-trade – most notably in his 2011 Oscar-winner A Separation, in which a bourgeois Tehrani couple become embroiled in a messy legal squabble with his father’s pious working-class carer and her husband.

This was followed by two more broadly successful spins on the formula: The Past, set in Paris, and The Salesman, in Tehran again. Now by taking the show to rural Spain, its limitations have begun to creak.

Everybody Knows is an ensemble whodunit which opens in a frisky mood. In a picturesque village near Madrid, a wedding is taking place: a bustling, nattery al fresco do, for which Laura (Penélope Cruz), the sister of the bride, has returned from Buenos Aires. Her two children are in tow, but husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darín) couldn’t make it, for reasons that are initially left vague.

It isn’t long before she’s reunited with Paco (Javier Bardem), a strapping old flame who never quite flickered out, and who now co-owns a vineyard bought from Laura’s family at an unusually low price that’s still a bone of contention with the locals.

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