Everybody Knows, directed by Asghar Farhadi, is a whodunnit that uses a kidnapping to expose the lurking tensions in a small Spanish town.

Laura (Penélope Cruz) is visiting her hometown with her kids for a family wedding, leaving her husband behind in Buenos Aires. She meets up with old flame Paco (Javier Bardem) and everything feels like it’s going to be a romcom, until her daughter Irene (Carla Campra) disappears during the reception and the demands for ransom start to appear.

What follows is a progressive laying bare of old grudges, class feuds and romantic entanglements that, unfortunately, hews a little too closely to the continuous revelations of a soap opera. This is sad primarily because the start of the film is so promising, with a truly dramatic shift in tone that works to upset you. After that, though, the labyrinthine developments become a little too implausible to take seriously, and the film ends neither on triumph nor tragedy, but immensely unsatisfying disappointment. One gets the impression a dartboard of social issues was employed to determine the plot.

Some commendations are due to the cast for their performances, and to Farhadi for creating a very vivid sense of place and people, but it ultimately mostly just feels like a waste of two and a quarter hours.

In Cinemas March 7