Based on the critically-acclaimed novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, “Everything is Illuminated” tells the story of a young man’s quest to find the woman who saved his grandfather in a small Ukrainian town that was wiped off the map by the Nazi invasion. What starts out as a journey to piece together one family’s story under absurd circumstances turns into a meaningful journey with a powerful series of revelations — the importance of remembrance, the perilous nature of secrets, the legacy of the Holocaust, and the meaning of friendship.
I’m just going to go ahead and tout this as the best film of 2005. It’s just that good- in fact, it’s better. When American Jonathan (Jonfen) Safran Foer, played by Elijah Wood, who is a collector of all things, embarks on a journey to Ukraine to find the woman who helped his grandfather escape a small village on the eve of Nazi invasion, he reluctantly finds meaning and finally some semblance of foundation in his life. On his voyage to the small village of Trachinbrod which was systematically whipped off the earth by Nazi incursion he employs hip-hop loving, break dancing extraordinaire Alex, his disgruntled grandfather who previously ran ‘Heritage Tours” which gave tours to rich American Jews who came to Ukraine in search of their family history, and, of course, we can’t forget Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. Alex, who is played by Eugene Hutz, is simply brilliant in his role and steals the show.
The other show-stopper in this film is the music. A combination of Eastern European and Russian Gyspy-punk with Jewish Klezmer music dazzle the film and offer the perfect backdrop to their bumbling voyage into the beautiful Ukrainian country side. The film manages to be gentle, loving and absolutely heart-wrenching. I was absolutely taken aback by the beauty and uncompromised dissection of the human spirit found in the short, sweet 91 minutes that comprised this film. When all is said and done, Alex and Jonfen, through their voyage into the unknown, finally come to the realization that after a painstakingly rigid search through love, life, and “premium” eastern European farmland that everything truly is illuminated.
Review by Emma Loggins