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Jonathan Safran Foer (Elijah Wood) a young Jewish American, and a collector of his family's memorabilia, sets off on a search to find the woman who saved his grandfather during WWII in a Ukrainian village that was ultimately razed by the Nazis. He arrives in the Ukraine to be greeted by Alex (Eugene Hutz) and his grandfather (Boris Leskin) who believes he's blind and has a dog meant to be his 'seeing eye bitch' named Sammy Davis jnr jnr (Mikki) in honour of his favourite singer. They're going to be his guides in a dilapidated car. Nobody knows of the village, but determination and a bit of luck (or is it fate?) steer them in the right direction.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Pardon my obtuse thinking, but I want to draw a line between this wonderful, bitter sweet film and Little Fish, the much acclaimed Australian film. Both film deal with the presence of the past in our lives; indeed, Everything Is Illuminated (by the past) is a line from this film that resonates as both literature and cinema. That's where I draw the line, as it were, because in every other way, the films are world apart. Literally. Just shows how different filmmakers can tackle similar themes from such unrelated vantage points. Such is the endless complexity of the human condition.

Eugene Hutz is marvellous as the young Ukrainian seconded to the job of interpreter, and his fractured English is one of the film's running gags - but there is an underlying sweetness to this that gives it emotional power. Boris Leskin gives us a gnarled, bristle-faced grandfather of exquisite complexity, as he grows increasingly crucial to the film's emotive punch.

Elijah Wood is wonderfully still as the author whose experiences gave rise to the work. His hair is jet black, his eyes a striking blue, enlarged by glass bottle bottom glasses. His physicality is a wonderful guide to his precision driven character, a collector of odd items that belong to family members. It's an outward manifestation of his need for having something tangible to prove the existence of a family no longer of this world.

Actor Liev Schreiber's debut as a director is auspicious: he seems able to combine comedy and tragedy (and a great soundtrack) with the ease of a master storyteller. He also has a great eye for images and imagery. The film, simplistically labelled a road movie I suppose, takes us on a journey through the Ukraine, showing us things that trigger ideas and feelings. These range from the spectacular fields, farms and trees to a rusted and bullet-holed roadside nuclear sign.

This theme expands towards the end of the film in a satisfying shift of tone from the highly entertaining first half, which is funny because it is so true, so unpredictably true.

There are additional scenes and theatrical trailer on the DVD.

Published May 4, 2006

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(US, 2005)

CAST: Eugene Hutz, Elijah Wood, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jana Hrabetova, Stephen Samudovsky, Mikki, Zuzana Hodkova, Boris Leskin, Yuri Lemeshev, Igor Latta, Elias Zerael Bauer, Jan Pavel Filipensky, Laryssa Lauret

PRODUCER: Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub

DIRECTOR: Liev Schreiber

SCRIPT: Liev Schreiber (novel by Jonathan Safran Foer)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew Libatique

EDITOR: Andrew Marcus, Craig McKay

MUSIC: Paul Cantelon


RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 24, 2005


SPECIAL FEATURES: Additional scenes, theatrical trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: May 3, 2006

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