Everything is Illuminated
I watched Everything is Illuminated again this holiday weekend. I saw it at the Telluride Film Festival last September but was so tired at the time of the viewing that it deserved another look. I knew I’d liked it, I just wasn’t sure how much of it I remembered.
What a tender, beautiful, bittersweet, transcendent film. It doesn’t reveal it’s writhing agony until the final acts. What begins in quirks and idiosyncrasy moves into a dark place where profound sadness and profound closure co-exist side by side. It is a film of pain that resurfaces and even though it is washed in redemption, still demands a bloody sacrifice.
The purpose of the film--a man’s search of his family’s roots--turns out to be a Hitchcockian MacGuffin of sorts; the spark but not the fire that lights the engine of the film’s soul. That comes in the most unexpected of places. Leiv Schreiber, in his directorial debut, does a deft and invisible job of shifting the material from broad satire and silliness in the film’s opening salvos to pathos and solemnity in the closing notes.
I am proud of Elijah Wood. His acting choices since The Lord of the Rings have been incredibly brave (Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Sin City). This film is no exception.
I was right about my hunch. A film equal parts farce and tragedy, Everything is Illuminated was well worth a repeat viewing.