Sunday, September 20, 2009

Everything Is Illuminated

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Everything Is Illuminated came out exactly four years ago in 2005. Two things attracted me to it: Liev Screiber wrote the screenplay and directed it, and Frodo starred in it.

When I started watching this film a few nights ago, I suddenly realized I had seen it before. Well, sort of. I had seen the first one-fourth of the film or so, and had been so bored I stopped watching. That goes to show you that sometimes the best films have slow beginnings.

Upon first glance, Elijah Wood is the star of the movie, but he just gets things going. He's obviously an American in a foreign land, a stuffed shirt (literally) among easy-going Ukrainians, journeying to a faraway place to try to find out who rescued his grandfather from the Nazis. His search leads him to a fly-by-night travel outfit, a young Ukrainian man (actor Eugene Hutz) who dreams of being a cool dude in a country and family that doesn't appreciate cool, and a driver who is the young man's grandfather. They go on a journey that has surprising but connected endings for all three.

I say with no hesitation that this is the best film I've seen all year. Its impact is so compelling that I've thought about this film on-and-off for a week now, and I am still amazed at its thrilling denouement. Hopefully I've learned my lesson about not judging a movie by its first few minutes.

Thumb's up. If you want to read a much better review of what the film accomplishes, read Ruth's take at her Jewish film website.


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