Opening 27 Sep 2018
The whirlwind wedding preparations are in full swing. Ana (Inma Cuesta), youngest daughter of the once-wealthy landowner Antonio (Ramón Barea), marries her big love Juan (Roger Casamajor) and the whole village is excited. Her sister Laura (Penélope Cruz) arrives from Argentina with her two children but without husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darin). The large extended family welcomes them with lots of kissing and hugging. What a happy atmosphere! It has been years since Laura visited the small Spanish village where she was born. Also Paco (Javier Bardem) is happy to see her. They once were lovers – as everybody knows – but he too is now happily married. His nephew Felipe (Sergio Castellanos) is fooling around with Laura's teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra). They are climbing up the church tower, not only chasing the pigeons but also noisily interrupting the wedding ceremony. During the joyful party in the courtyard Filipe and Irene join the wild dancing. After too much drink Irene gets dizzy and decides to lie down in her room. When Laura is checking on her daughter, there is no Irene. The bed is empty. The real shock comes when a phone message arrives to say that Irene has been kidnapped. No police are to be involved and a ransom is to be paid. No wonder Laura freaks out, frantically searching the house and surroundings for signs of her daughter. Her old friend Paco immediately takes the lead in the search. This is the abrupt end of the wedding party. Family members start arguing, trying to find a reason for the abduction. Speculation runs high, old grievances are being voiced. Everybody seems to be a suspect. It must be someone near to the family. How about Laura's husband Alejandro? What kept him from the wedding? Why does Paco's wife Bea (Bárbara Lennie) receive the threatening message as well? Suspense is growing. Emotions are getting out of hand and tension builds. With each new piece of information it becomes more compelling. The unexpected arrival of Laura's disheveled husband Alejandro adds an uneasiness within the family.
Oscar-winning director and screenwriter Ashar Farhadi's (Le Passé, Nader and Simin) atmospheric family drama turns into a suspense thriller. The latent tension is held throughout the film. Intriguing, mysterious details are brought to attention by camera man José Luis Alcaine (he has three Goya Awards to his name).
An excellent Javier Bardem shines with the performance of a sensitive father figure, whilst Penélope Cruz brings heart-breaking emotions of a distressed mother to the screen, joined by Ricardo Darin as her husband. Bárbara Lennie, as Paco's wife, is the exasperating outsider of the family, temperamentally voicing her anger and frustration. The young Carla Campra portrays a true-to-life teenage daughter. The entire action was filmed in a small village near Madrid with a Spanish-speaking team. I am in awe of how the Persian director succeeded in creating such a “true Spanish feeling” considering that he needed a translator on the set. He does not speak the language and wrote the original script in Farsi. (Birgit Schrumpf)