‘Everybody Knows’ (‘Todo el Mundo lo Sabe’): Malaga Review

Courtesy of Calle 13
Micro-budgeted micro-drama about microphones

There are shades of Coppola’s ‘The Conversation’ in Miguel Larraya’s Malaga festival winner

Every big scandal story has its peripheral, anonymous figures who never reach the pages of the press. Everybody Knows noirishly focuses on three of these, innocently seeking a part of the action without knowing what the action really is. A tight, compact script for the Wikileaks era together with a couple of committed performances are the highlights of a project without the means to offer much more, but the film is a fine lesson in how to successfully exploit minimal resources whilst feeling bang up to date. As such it picked up three awards in Malaga’s ZonaZine section, reserved for edgier offerings.

Miguel Larraya’s follow up to 2013’s inferior Afterparty is the latest film to appear under Spain’s Little Secret Film banner, a vaguely Dogma-like project featuring movies made with web releases in mind. Among its principles are that a film shouldn’t take more than 24 hours to shoot, that dialogue must not be pre-written, and that cast and crew combined must not include more than ten people. The project has generated a handful of exciting extreme indie projects, and here’s one.

Everybody consists exclusively of conversations. The first features Marta (Barbara Santa Cruz), a posh, excitable and too-innocent girl complaining to a friend about being left by a businessman who, it rapidly becomes clear, is up to no good on a large scale: buying Rolexes from unlucky gamblers in casinos as a money-laundering strategy is just the start. From here we move to Polillo (Diego Toucedo), enthusiastically telling a friend (Juan Alen) about how he met a big fish, Eduardo, in jail: Eduardo wants out of jail and is prepared to kiss and tell to make it happen, so he charges El Polillo on his release with delivering compromising documents to the press. The journalistic contact in question in Jorge (Juan Blanco).

For reasons which become clear only at the end, each of their conversations is being taped by an anonymous security agent. Showing that a well-made script can compensate for the lack of any special effects budget -- or indeed, in the case of Everybody Knows, of any budget at all -- the narrative information is parceled carefully out through the conversations and, perhaps even more significantly, in the ellipses between them, successfully keeping the new questions coming.

Considering the limited context in which it develops, particularly in Marta’s case, given that that Santa-Cruz is always onscreen alone, the characterization is pretty good. What links the characters together is their wish for something better in a society which hasn’t kept its promises and their innocence about how things really work. Their superficial villainy is thus tempered by their victimhood, in a script which is a pretty direct on attack on the human detritus that political corruption leaves in its wake.

Marta herself is preparing for Spanish state exams, famously a tedious and slow path towards economic stability, and so has fallen easily for the older, wealthy businessman. But her insecurity about her situation starts to take over as she slowly realizes that she is in over her head. Polilla is a typical low-life chancer, tightly wound up, tense, fast-talking and full of plans, always on the edge of an explosion which sure enough will come later on. The weakest character is Juan Blanco as a journalist making a last attempt to save himself from being fired. An interesting mix of arrogance and uncertainty, Jorge nevertheless lacks the interest and drive of the others.

Despite the quality of performances and the terrific dialogues, sparky with comic Tarantino-esque non-sequiturs, Larraya inevitably struggles to maintain visual interest in what could also easily work as a radio play. Speakers are shot often partially -- for example, we only get to see Marta’s face clearly twenty minutes in, apparently part of Larraya’s plan to increase the visual clarity when the characters' motivations start to become clear to us.

Enrique Silguero’s camerawork, busy within its narrow paremeters, and Luis Torron’s quickfire editing do the job without becoming wearisomely intrusive, because ultimately, with this kind of film, it’s all down to the performances. There’s no real reason, however, why the characters would meet on or under bridges, as they always seem to do, were it not for budget reasons and the impositions of the Little Secret Film format.

Production companies: Calle 13, Llanero Films
Cast: Barbara Santa-Cruz, Diego Toucedo, Juan Blanco, Juan Alen
Director, screenwriter: Miguel Larraya
Producers: Pablo Maqueda, Haizea G. Viana
Director of photography: Enrique Silguero
Editor: Luis Terron
Sales: Calle 13

No rating, 75 minutes