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Everything Is Illuminated

Leave Normal Behind. 

Year: 2005 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Everything Is Illuminated

Director: Liev Schreiber

Starring: Elijah Wood, Eugene Hutz, Boris Leskin

Jonathan Foer (Elijah Wood) is a young American Jew who avidly collects items (anything from toothbrushes to false teeth) which he preserves to record his family history. When he is presented suddenly with a photograph of a woman who had kept his grandfather alive during the Nazi occupation of the Ukraine, he immediately resolves to find this mysterious lady and learn more of his grandfather’s past. With the doubtful assistance of a tour-guide (Boris Leskin) convinced of his own blindness, his grandson Alex (Eugene Hutz) incapable of fluent English yet serving as translator, and a dog that insists on coming along, Jonathan sets off across the Ukraine in search of answers. It is as they near their destination that the three men begin to realise that they have much more in common than they would ever have imagined.

In his directorial debut, Liev Schreiber has created a film that is humorous, reflective, thought-provoking and sad. The audience is taken on a journey of self-discovery (or rather of illumination), while also encountering friendship and the essential experiences that bind us all together. Jewish persecution is represented in a fresh light, with emphasis and perspective shifting from the immediate experiences of those who were there to those who endeavour to understand what it must really have been like. This is both a road movie and a humane look at the terrors of war. Performances are strong, Elijah Wood convincing in his leading role and Boris Leskin combining comical relief with the dignity of past recollection. But it is Eugene Hutz who steals the show. Playing a young man inclined to break-dance and obsessed with western culture, his character has at once the humour that attends Leskin while also possessing the capacity to develop through experience, something which is central to the film at large.

All of this is complemented by some stunning cinematography. The Ukrainian landscape is shown in all its splendour (a glorious field full of sunflowers particularly memorable). Add to this a wonderful soundtrack with some exquisite scores of music, and the overall package is impressive. A must-see film that is likely to stir the emotions.

Will Farrow

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Screenings of this film:

2005/2006 Summer Term (35mm)