Everything Is Illuminated

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Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska

Starring: Elijah Wood, Eugene Hutz, Boris Leskin, Laryssa Lauret
Director: Liev Schreiber

‘All the ladies are wanting to get carnal with me because of my premium dance moves.’ So says Alex, a young westernized Ukrainian with ace dance routines and accented English so affluent in quirky vocabulary it makes you wish you were born in Kiev! But Alex can’t get carnal right now. He has another job taking up his time…

Jonathan’s big, blue, beautiful eyes stare intensely at the muddled scenes in front of him. Magnified by the spectacles he constantly wears, they soak in the sorrows and joys of a culture as rich as the food its people eat. Being an American Jew visiting Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather’s life during WW2 isn’t easy, but with the helping hand of a ‘premium’ chap like Alex, anything is possible!

The amusing, enlightening trip that results is a feast that tickles your funny bone. Flirting with the idea of a man chasing and acknowledging his past is one thing, doing it with the grace and gusto of an informed comedian is another. EVERYTHING IS Illuminated has that funny, warm fuzz to it without the addition of any kitsch. It is a movie that has a magical fluidity even if the communication of its stars is a little broken.

Elijah Wood (in the role of Jonathan Safran Foer) does the puppy-eyed-look performance that only he can do (and with those eyes, nobody’s complaining!). It’s through those eyes that a lot of emotion is conveyed; thus it is logical for him not to speak a great deal. His translator Alex (Eugene Hutz) on the other hand is full of useless words and explanations which add helpful nuances to just about everything in this inspiring tale. They’re also responsible for most of the humour.

This was written for the screen and directed by actor Liev Schreiber (2004’s THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE), and is a fantastic debut into writing/directing – the man deserves a pat on the back (less can be said of some other attempts by performers who should have stuck to their original profession)! This is an all-rounder of a road movie with a simple storyline that keeps you watching, and a beautiful energy that wraps you up with exceptional warmth. It will leave you on the verge of crying well-educated tears.

All in all, a premium film!

5 out of 6 stars