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Everything Is Illuminated

Warner Bros. // PG-13 // March 21, 2006
List Price: $27.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Preston Jones | posted March 12, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Movie

"We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us." That recurring line of dialogue from Magnolia kept drifting to the front of my mind as I watched writer/director Liev Schreiber's wonderfully quirky debut Everything Is Illuminated. Adapted from the acclaimed Jonathan Safran Foer novel of the same name (look for the author in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo as a leaf blower near the beginning of the film), Everything Is Illuminated is a hyper-real fable about the importance of history and discovering one's roots, no matter what the cost.

Starring Elijah Wood as Jonathan, a "collector" who compulsively catalogs his life almost as a way of keeping it at arm's length, Everything Is Illuminated is his story as viewed through the lens of one Alexander Perchov (Eugene Hutz, front man of Gypsy punk madmen Gogol Bordello) – his fractured English serves as the narration for the film (as well as the book) and gives the story a wonderfully goofy air. Schreiber maintains a distinctly off-kilter, literary air, reminiscent of Wes Anderson or Paul Thomas Anderson's work, that helps ground this tonally tricky material. It's difficult to discuss Everything Is Illuminated without revealing the unexpected poignancy that infiltrates the story about an hour in. What begins as a light-hearted farce becomes quite emotionally complex; it's to everyone's credit that the film survives the transition, arriving at a bittersweet conclusion.

The cast is uniformly superb – Wood, moon-faced behind an oversized pair of glasses, has surprisingly little dialogue, relaying much of his character's thoughts through his liquid eyes, while Hutz delivers a charming performance as the charismatic Alex, stealing most scenes he's in. Schreiber's willingness to trust his audience to follow the story is refreshing; the slightly dense narrative isn't straightforward but Schreiber refuses to take the easy road, making Everything Is Illuminated wrenching at times.

Vivid and inspiring, Everything Is Illuminated glows from within, an assured debut from actor Liev Schreiber behind the camera and boasting two luminous performances from Elijah Wood and Eugene Hutz. It's a terrific, compelling film that will hopefully find the audience it deserves on DVD.

The DVD

The Video:

Sporting a rock solid 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Everything Is Illuminated fairly pops off the screen – lush, crisp and devoid of any noticeable defect, this is a sterling digital representation of cinematographer Matthew Libatique's breathtaking visuals.

The Audio:

You wouldn't think a film like Everything Is Illuminated, which is intoxicated with dialogue, would have the robust, rich Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that it does – Paul Cantelon's evocative score makes nice use of the surrounds, even thumping the subwoofer occasionally, while the lovingly cracked English is heard clearly, free of distortion.

The Extras:

It's very unfortunate that Schreiber didn't at least sit for an interview, let alone a commentary track; he clearly is passionate about Foer's source material and would've likely provided some keen insights to his finished film. What's included as bonus material almost feels like an afterthought: 18 minutes, 30 seconds of additional scenes, playable together in non-anamorphic widescreen are here as is the film's theatrical trailer in anamorphic widescreen.

Final Thoughts:

Vibrant and inspiring, Liev Schreiber's adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated blew through theaters too quickly for it to gain the audience it deserves, a tragedy hopefully remedied with this DVD. While the bonus materials leave a lot to be desired, the strength of the film more than warrants a recommendation. Highly recommended.

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C O N T E N T

V I D E O

A U D I O

E X T R A S

R E P L A Y

A D V I C E
Highly Recommended

E - M A I L
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