A young Jewish American (Elijah Wood) embarks on a journey to locate the woman who saved his father from the Nazis in a Ukrainian village during the Second World War. Upon his arrival in the foreign land he is met by another young man and his blind grandfather who will be his guides and they soon get lost.

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Schreiber tries his best to tell a heartfelt tale of one man’s journey into his family’s war-torn past, but unfortunately, his first feature is ultimately underwhelming.

Whimsy, in the right hands, can be delightful, tender and moving. At other times, it can feel forced and simply fall flat. With Everything Is Illuminated, actor-turned-director Liev Schreiber tries his best to tell a heartfelt tale of one man’s journey into his family’s war-torn past, but unfortunately, his first feature is ultimately underwhelming.


Schreiber has adapted Jonathan Safran Foer’s best-selling, highly ambitious autobiographical novel and boiled it down to a linear road movie. Elijah Wood channels a bespectacled version of Chaplin’s tramp to play Jonathan, who journeys from America to Europe when an old photo passed on by his grandmother prompts a trip to the old country. As he hobbles along on his quest as an innocent abroad, spellbound and literally wide-eyed, Wood’s already childlike blue eyes are magnified by his coke-bottle specs. Plastic bags in hand, he fanatically collects odd pieces of memorabilia in order to document his family’s lives.


Though much of the film is a crashing bore, first time actor Eugene Hutz brings droll humour to his role as one of Jonathan’s local tour guides, thanks to his overly formal command of English. For instance, his little brother is 'miniature", sleep is 'repose", etc. With his Adidas get-up and serious bling, Alex is a lively character – kind of like Ali G crossed with the Night At The Roxbury guys from Saturday Night Live with a splash of disco Travolta thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, he’s one of the few bright spots.


The film emotionally redeems itself by the final reel, but those who loved Foer’s book are likely to feel cheated.


Filmink 2/5