Liev Schreiber’s directorial debut, Everything Is Iluminated (2005), makes a return visit thanks to the Hendersonville Film Society, and a welcome return it is. I often find it interesting to revisit a film I’ve already written about, if only to see how those original thoughts stack up against seeing the film again. (For a more detailed review, you can access the original review on the Xpress Web site.) In the case of Everything Is Illuminated, I found the film even more poignant than I did on the first viewing — and found myself even more baffled by criticisms I heard on the film’s original release about the startling event that takes place at the film’s climax. That startling event in question seems completely right to me in the context of the film.
Schreiber’s adaptation of the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer is a deceptively clever use of the standard road-trip picture — only with quirkier than usual underpinnings and characterizations — that leads into surprising places not usually associated with the comedic formula. The film is at once very funny and very dark, with the darker aspects taking over in the latter portions. At bottom it’s the story of a young man’s (Elijah Wood) search for the woman who saved his grandfather’s life in World War II, but it’s also the story of his search for himself and his liberation from that self. A rich and strange work populated with fascinating characters, Everything Is Illuminated is also a singularly handsome film (some of the compositions and settings are almost surreal in their very striking quality). If you missed it before, this is a good opportunity to finally catch up with it.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke