Everything is Illuminated - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Everything is Illuminated Reviews

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Super Reviewer
July 4, 2007
Broad ethnic humor and mawkish sentiment supposedly held together by Woods' blank expression and very meaningful fades to white.
Super Reviewer
½ September 7, 2015
An unusual film - part comedy, part drama. Elijah Wood plays a young man who travels to the Ukraine to remember what he could about his Jewish grandfather's escape from the Nazis in WW2. He gets more than he bargained for.
Super Reviewer
August 23, 2012
A Ukrainian road trip of self discovery begins when a man decides to unravel the family secret that breaks his dying grandmother's heart ... giving us the best (and maybe the only) living with the Holocaust in the third generation story ever. You'll laugh, you'll cry.
Super Reviewer
November 19, 2011
I resisted seeing this before reading the novel on which it's based, but I finally caved when it was on IFC... so glad I did. In the early going, director Liev Schreiber lets the camera and the music do most of the narrating before the perspective shifts to that of Ukrainian guide, Alex. It's unclear exactly whose story this is, which is the point in a way, and it's hard to say more than that without blowing the ending. A quirky, heavy film about finding out where we come from, and one that I really enjoyed. I think once I've read the book, I'll like it even more.
Super Reviewer
½ August 16, 2010
A very interesting little film. I liked it...
Super Reviewer
½ December 22, 2011
Alex: I was of the opinion that the past is past, and like all that is not now it should remain burried along the side of our memories. 

"Leave Normal Behind."

Everything is Illuminated is one of the more odd road movies you will ever see. The film isn't very funny, although it has been dubbed a dramedy. The film was nothing like I expected, but was just as good. Elijah Wood gives a very subtle and good performance as Jonathan and the rest of the cast, which is unknown to me, is very good as well. The movie is unexpectedly weird and is not made in a very straightforward fashion, which I like. It is extremely well made though, with some beautiful cinematography and a score that fits the scenery and story very well.

Jonathan is a Jew who collects and everything that somehow relates to his families past. He goes to the Ukraine is search of a woman who saved his grandfathers life during WW2, when their village was invaded and destroyed by the Nazis. The film is funny for about twenty minutes, but for the most part it is just a straight drama and near the end it gets very emotional. 

I like this movie because it is about a Jew who's family was affected by WW2 and the Nazis, yet it isn't a Holocaust film. I'm seriously getting sick of watching WW2 related movies about Jews because they are all about the Holocaust and there are so many of them. This manages to be about much more and it also manages to be a extremely beautiful piece of filmmaking.
Super Reviewer
August 30, 2011
Everything is Illuminated is a wonderful comedy drama film with a great cast. What I loved about the film was that it had a good dose of both genres, and it blended nicely with the overall story. The result is a wonderful and memorable film. The story is well constructed and is a lot of fun. The cast do a fine job, and the film manages to be heartfelt with emotion, comedy and drama. Elijah Wood's performance is wonderful and aside from his role in The Lord of the Rings, this is his best performance. Everything is Illuminated is definitely a film that's worth seeing, and the story is wonderful. The cast do a terrific job at creating something memorable on screen, and the result is a unique picture that is funny, heartwarming and sad all at once. If you're looking for a different type of comedy drama film, then Everything is Illuminated is that film. This is a well crafted film that really is a terrific film going experience. Everything about the film is wonderful, and there's not much to dislike. This is a well made film with a well developed story and this is definitely a film worth watching. This is a film with a wonderful story and acting to boot, if you're looking for something different, then this is the film you should consider watching.
Super Reviewer
½ November 17, 2009
Wow, really a great movie. I was totally blown away. Liev Schreiber did an amazing job at giving this movie so much emotion and depth. Elijah Wood was really good and gave a solid performance as always. The Ukranian guy in it was great, he was really funny, but had so much heart at the same time.
Super Reviewer
May 27, 2007
This movie moves a bit too slow for my liking, but I love it all the same. It's about passivity and cultural identity and emotions and veracity and it's super impressive that the adaptation maintains the tone of the book without appearing too contrived.The score is BEAUTIFUL. It stuffs just enough comedotragic fusion to flesh out each character, each scene, each word. I love that it doesn't do that ironical humor-flash thing when scenes get too dramatic; it leaves each emotion separate. This is catharsis at its finest.
Super Reviewer
August 5, 2007
"Leave Normal Behind."

A young man takes a strange and unexpectedly funny journey in search of a family heroine he's never known in this screen adaptation of the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. Jonathan (Elijah Wood) is a lifelong collector of any and all objects pertaining to his family, and he has become obsessed with a woman he's never met. The woman saved the life of his grandfather during World War II, when the Ukrainian town where he was born was destroyed by Nazi troops. Wanting to know more about the woman, Jonathan flies to the Ukraine, where with the help of a hip-hop obsessed, gold-toothed tour guide and translator named Alex (Eugene Hütz), Alex's grandfather (a chauffeur who has claimed to be blind since his wife's death, played by Boris Leskin), and a dog named Sammy Davis Junior Junior, Jonathan searches for the meaning of the present that lies buried in the past, unexpectedly shedding the same such light on the lives of those around him. Everything Is Illuminated was the first directorial assignment for acclaimed actor Liev Schreiber.

A funny and heartwarming directorial debut from Liev Schreiber. Jonathan Foer is an American who travels to the Ukraine to find the woman that saved his grandfather's life during World War II. Alex is his often funny translator, and Alex's "blind" grandfather is their driver. Together the three (and a seeing eye Bitch) travel through the Ukrainian countryside searching for a village called Trachimbrod. Eventually they find Lista, who like Jonathan is a "collector". From her they learn about the past, and a secret about Alex's grandfather is revealed.

A wonderful film that contains both laughter and sadness, filled with beautiful visuals and a good musical score. Highly recommended.
Super Reviewer
½ June 17, 2006
A jewish man visiting the Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis, roadtripping with his local guides, which makes for a really light-hearted, quirky and entertaining first half with many laughs as the cultures collide. Once we learn more about the past Elijah Wood's character is looking into (with glasses that make his eyes bigger than they already are) and how his old guide has its own story with the Nazis the movie is getting deeply melancholic, touching, even sad. It still works as one film though, doesn't feel disrupted or out of place. There are many little things to learn about friendship, the meaning of your own past and remembering it. The nice cinematography of what feels like endless Ukrainian fields the car rides through is hard to forget, as well as the acting performances, especially by the old Russian actors. Wonderfully weird and worth seeing.
Super Reviewer
½ May 18, 2008
Apparently this film was based not on Foer's novel of the same title, but on his short story "A Very Rigid Search," so instead of making "comparisons" per se, I'll just say it was an incredibly stupid idea to adapt a vapid short story under the title of a truly illuminating novel. Grandfather's death and the identity and role of Augustine make absolutely no sense now, and have little emotional impact. Settings and colors were pretty but the plot lost so much meaning in terms of the Holocaust and Foer's imaginative backstory for his ancestors.
Super Reviewer
½ March 19, 2008
This film was nothing like I expected it would be, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I found it to be a very touching and thought provoking look at history and family.

Concidering the subject matters, the film was able to have an overall lighthearted and hopefull feel about it, without lessening the intensity and power of the main message.

Never forget history (especially your own), but don't let it keep you from living your life to the fullest.
Super Reviewer
February 11, 2007
Liev Schreiber has proven himself a powerful visual director with Everything Is Illuminated, and having Matthew Libatique as your main cinematographer is the best way to expound on this, but the rest of the movie is uneven. I really hate simpering, talentless Elijah Wood, and it doesn't help things that they saddled him with the least interesting main character in movie history. The extent of Jonathan's role in the movie is making one decent joke, asking people to translate things for him, and putting dirt in a bag. Let's hear it for active character development!

It gets off to a pretty strong start with a bit of fresh, awesome comic relief, but this comedic tone vanishes completely within the first 45 minutes. I can understand its need to switch to a more serious dramatic tone but it's cruel to tempt viewers with something really great, then bait-and-switch in something a lot less interesting.

The movie does score a few points for the occasional resonant emotional moment, most of them involving the sad-looking old woman in the sunflower field, but a lot of the time it's just really boring. Surface beauty only takes a film so far. Better luck next time, Mr. Schreiber. Try starring in a movie that is not a shitty horror remake and maybe that'll give you enough clout to direct something else.
Super Reviewer
June 13, 2007
beautiful and funny surreal road movie wth splendid photography. narrated in uneven ways, which seriously affects the whole, getting slow and painful most of the time. delirious soundtrack.
Super Reviewer
½ October 13, 2007
I was sooooo excited to see this movie. But it ended up not being very good at all. I guess Russians can't always save a movie.
Super Reviewer
July 6, 2007
An interesting tale that begins when a young man (Elijah), Jonathan S. Foer takes up the past time of collecting things belonging to family members. His grandmother gives him a photograph from his recently departed grandfather for his 'collection'. The photograph is a picture of his grandfather with a mysterious woman before WWII.

This amazing addition to his collection takes him overseas from the comfort of America to Odessa, Ukraine. Where he meets a family whose business is to show Jewish families where their family members once resided.

Alex, an unorthodox young Ukrainian goes on a trip with his grandfather to escort the young american to find out who the woman in the photograph is. The language barrier is enough to keep one in stitches, and the way 'the prime translator' translates everything literally is quite hilarious.

Alex seems shallow, and is distant with his grandfather and all it takes is one young american to help them realize there is more to life. Alex learns more about life that exists outside of the time period he's living in Ukraine, and perhaps they all learn something from each other.

The cinematography is amazing, the light plays on everything. The Ukrainian country side is absolutely beautiful and the story itself is enlightening and endearing.

A beautiful story, that I recommend to everyone.
Super Reviewer
½ July 18, 2007
Brilliant movie based on a brilliant book. Funny and moving it tracks a young Jewish man's route through discovering his roots. Great performances as well.
Super Reviewer
May 3, 2007
Nice cinematography and pretty okay movie overall, but didn't like the music or the story that much. Some funny moments when two very different cultures collide :-)
Super Reviewer
February 10, 2007
So I enjoyed this movie very much (especially the furry Kangol and the "seeing eye bitch"). But at the end I was very disapointed and sad for a few minutes until I thought more about it and then it was okay and it made sense. The additional scenes were hilarious and I'm wondering why they weren't in the movie (maybe because the director didn't want the movie to be totally crazy). It was a good mix of humor and seriousness.
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