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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 


Laura (Penelope Cruz), a Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires, returns to her hometown outside Madrid with her two children to attend her sister's wedding. However, the trip is upset by unexpected events that bring secrets into the open.

Review by Louise Keller:
A wedding, a kidnapping and a secret that everybody knows is the focus of this involving film by Asghar Farhadi in which the characters form part of an intricate jigsaw puzzle. It sings with authenticity. The beauty of the film lies in Farhadi's authentic creation of a reality in which family dynamics, old friends and relationships play a critical part. Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Ricardo Darin are a formidable combo - they form the pivot around which an intense emotional journey takes place. Each of the three central characters is stripped emotionally as layers are peeled away as dynamics change.

The film begins with a wedding - a joyous affair in a small town near Madrid with a vineyard and church bell tower, in which initials carved in its ancient walls are a reminder of a well-known secret. Much time is spent on establishing mood and character before and amid the festivities. We have already met Laura (Cruz) and her two children as they arrive from Buenos Aires. (Husband Alejandro - Ricardo Darin - has remained at home.) In particular, we are seduced by Laura's free-spirited teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra), whose joie de vivre is contagious. There is a comfortable vibe between Laura and her former lover Paco (Bardem), who is there with his wife Bea (Barbara Lennie). Watching real life husband and wife Bardem and Cruz on screen together is a treat in every sense.

For those who remember Bardem in his key role in the Oscar winning The Sea Inside (2004), there's an echo of his memorable line about life being a right and not an obligation. This time the context is quite different. Watch for the subtlety of Bardem's reaction in a situation fraught with emotional complexity is even more moving by its understatement.

Beautifully shot with superb, heartfelt performances that delve deep into personal issues, Farhadi makes us care about the characters and their journey. Towards the end there is a scene in which a car drives along a dirt road that winds deeper and deeper into the dark night. The film's journey is a bit like that. We feel as though we are going deeper and deeper into the lives and souls of the characters, as their vulnerabilities are exposed.

This is a haunting film that reverberates with truths. The ending is subtle and satisfying, leaving us with the wealth of our imagination to complete the gaps. Superb, sensitive filmmaking.

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(Spain, France, Italy, 2018)

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CAST: Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darin

PRODUCER: Alvaro Longoria, Alexandre Mallet-Guy

DIRECTOR: Asghar Farhadi

SCRIPT: Asghar Farhadi


EDITOR: Hayedeh Safiyari

MUSIC: Javier Limon


RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes



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