Everything is Illuminated tries to be a whole lot of things but only manages to be successful at a few of them.
Everything is Illuminated tries to be a strikingly original independent film. As the debut of actor Liev Schreiber as director, its his “audition” in a sense. He seems to be trying to use “camera angles” to mark his own creativity. He also seems to be trying to have his actors emote for long stretches of film as a way of seeming deep. If he had just edited the film down and let the story tell itself, it would have been more satisfying.
Everything is Illuminated tries to be intelligently funny. Unfortunately, the film is not as funny as it thinks it is. I felt a little embarrassed a few times, smiling more out of obligation than out of true humour.
Everything is Illuminated tries very hard to be emotionally devastating. However, it only manages to be somewhat touching. The story is a sweet one and with a less heavy hand could have been more inspiring.
Everything is Illuminated doesn’t fail at any of these things just never quite gets where it’s trying to go.
Elijah Wood, in what is advertised as the lead but in reality is just a part of the ensemble, is quite good. He seems to have found the perfect character for his own awkward, clumsy style.
There is a nice little moment at the end where Wood’s character sees all the people he met along his travels back home again which I think spoke volumes and captures a lot of what the film was really trying to get at. This moment saves the film from complete disposability. I may just have to think about Everything is Illuminated again.