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Everything Is Illuminated - Review

Elijah Wood in Everything Is Illuminated

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

ELIJAH Wood continues his path away from all things Frodo-related in this quirky but endearing journey of discovery based on the best-seller by Jonathan Safran.

Everything Is Illuminated touched the hearts of many when it first appeared as a novel and debut director, Liev Schreiber, is careful to ensure that his film will do the same for anyone willing to embrace its surreal charm.

Wood stars as neurotic American, Jonathan, who travels to the Ukraine in search of a woman he believes may have helped his grandfather to escape from the Nazis.

Enlisting the help of a street-smart guide named Alex (Eugene Hutz) and his anti-Semitic grandfather (Boris Leskin), Jonathan begins a journey towards the truth that has some startling revelations for all concerned.

As serious as the subject matter sounds, however, Everything Is Illuminated is by no means the somber affair it could have been.

Schreiber is careful to maintain the quirky humour that was rife within Safran’s book so that the emotional pay-off feels all the more striking.

His film is packed with surreal imagery and offbeat situations and characters that will certainly frustrate mainstream audiences but who all contribute to the overall picture in some way.

Yet for those willing to forgive the film some of its more artistic indulgences, there is plenty to admire.

Schreiber proves himself to be a very interesting director, while Wood is both engaging and completely unselfish in what amounts to a very understated part.

For it is Hutz and Leskin who make the biggest impression on viewers, bringing a great deal of charisma and eccentricity to proceedings and contributing in no small part to the poignant final act.

Hutz, making his acting debut, is particularly memorable as the idealistic local keen to embrace Western culture despite a garbled grasp of English.

Audiences seeking a thoughtful and humorous take on a familiar movie theme should therefore enjoy this quietly captivating journey towards enlightenment.