Asghar Farhadi caused an international stir with all of his recent works. With OPEN SECRET – in the original: “Everybody Knows” – he was even allowed to open the renowned Cannes Film Festival this year. But how does his latest work compare to his previous ones? We reveal this and more in our review.
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The Plot Summary
On the occasion of her sister Ana’s (Inma Cuesta) wedding, Laura (Penélope Cruz) travels from Buenos Aires to her Spanish home village, where a lavish party is to take place in a few days. Paco (Javier Bardem) is also here. She not only has her first great love with him, but also a business deal from many years ago in which Laura sold her shares of the family inheritance to him. But that’s not what it’s supposed to be about these days. Nor is it about the envy and resentment towards Paco, who runs a well-running winery. But in the end everything turns out differently. When Laura’s daughter suddenly disappears without a trace and all traces point to her being in the hands of brutal criminals, all personal feuds are unimportant for a moment. All that matters is finding the girl again. Or are the tensions within the family and the kidnapping somehow related?
Movie explanation of the ending
Asghar Farhadi’s films (“Nader and Simin”, “Le passé”, “The Salesman”) are never exclusively about a single conflict. Instead, the actual premise is fundamentally embedded in the study of a particular clientele, a society or a country. “Open Secret” is only superficially a kidnapping thriller. If you look behind the facade, you will see a devastating family chronicle in which problems and conflicts are postponed for many decades, not spoken about and finally hushed up until they all come to light within a few days. This simmering emotional mix forms the narrative basis of “Open Secret,” whereupon Farhadi ultimately develops a kidnapping plot that is largely devoid of surprises, but is always coherent and intensely illustrated. The narrative environment makes everyone a suspect. The possible reasons for the kidnapping are varied and the further the film progresses, the more it and its main characters become entangled in contradictions. It’s a web of lies and secrets that you only climb through very slowly until, in the end, every little detail falls into place.
Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem star in Asghar Farhadi’s “Open Secret”.
Both the original English title and the USA translation capture the core of the content, but also a certain weakness of the film very accurately: the secret here is actually very obvious and not just about the people on From the screen, everyone knows pretty quickly what mystery actually surrounds the family here. But this much has to be said: Ultimately, “Open Secret” is not necessarily about what is already obvious, but rather about how one thing leads to the other. This is how the appeal of the film develops, especially when you begin to notice that everyone here is actually somehow involved in the kidnapping, or that those who are not are still benefiting from it in some way. The only one who hasn’t had anything to do with all of this yet (but who seems to have discovered significant details of the all-encompassing secret in an early scene) is the daughter. And after all, she is the one who has to go through the greatest suffering in this entire story. It almost seems as if Asghar Farhadi, who once again wrote the script for his film, wanted to show that there is no escape from the ghosts of one’s own family. If you are born into it, you inevitably carry it with you; “Open Secret” is something like the “Hereditary” of dramas this year.
What Asghar Farhadi, on the other hand, doesn’t do quite as well is connecting the many loose plot threads and leads (both right and wrong). It is not for nothing that the family at the center of the action consists of so many members, each of whom has a different attitude to the others, which may or may not have motives and generally have their own effects on the family dynamics. But where in one place Farhadi makes very precise observations that reveal tiny character details of individual characters, elsewhere he remains too vague and, simply by his unbalanced view of the character constellation, unconsciously throws breadcrumbs as to what the whole kidnapping could be about . You probably shouldn’t rate “Open Secret” as a classic whodunit anyway, but the film loses the tension it has built up at times, even though it doesn’t actually have to. So Farhadi’s film is initially a crime thriller and then more and more a drama, but it could just as easily be both at once and probably be much stronger as a result.
Laura and Paco haven’t seen each other for ages.
Even if it’s Penélope Cruz (“Murder on the Orient Express”) As a self-sacrificing and deeply concerned mother who occasionally overdoes her game, she forms with her real husband Javier Bardem (“mother!”) as her former childhood sweetheart and still close confidant, a harmonious pair of main actors who differ as much as possible from one another in terms of tonality. While Laura initially limits the search for her daughter to the superficial part and primarily looks for perpetrators from outside (or just pretends to look for them because she knows who it was anyway?), Paco soon investigates internally as well Circles and thus quickly makes it credible that the kidnappers could have family-related roots. With his decidedly sober production, from which Cruz, who is sometimes downright hysterical, stands out all the more, Farhadi anchors the events as best as he can in the here and now of reality. Maybe a nod to the fence post: after all, every family has some skeletons in the basement. Only the almost fairytale atmosphere that emanates from the Spanish village allows the viewer a touch of distance, but at the same time the contrast between holiday idyll and kidnapping nightmare seems all the stronger. Asghar Farhadi simply pulls out every possible stop in order to spread the already diffuse tension in “Open Secret” even more widely and thereby leave the outcome of his story open for as long as possible. From this point of view, it almost seems disappointing in the end – or just like a neat understatement.
Conclusion: In “Open Secret” Asghar Farhadi describes a dramatic kidnapping in a completely unusual way, using it as an opportunity to delve into the depths of a family’s character. The result is extremely oppressive in its emphasized calm.
“Open Secret” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from September 27th.