Everything Is Illuminated

Director: Liev Schreiber

Based on the critically acclaimed novel by Jonathan Safron Foer, actor Liev Schreiber’s wonderful screenplay and directorial adaptation is sheer cinematic magic that enhances rather than detracts from the original source material. Taking a cue from the book, the film is divided up into chapters and the first one begins on a somber note with beautiful but melancholy imagery utilized to introduce us to our eccentric main character, the fictitious version of Jonathan Safron Foer (played by Elijah Wood) who as a hobby collects any and all family belongings in small sandwich sized baggies. However, the serious mood of the opening is elevated considerably as chapter two gets viewers fully involved with the emergence of our memorably hilarious narrator Alex (played by a pitch-perfect Eugene Hutz) with a “not so premium” grasp of the English language. Hip-hop loving, American culture worshipping Alex serves as the translator for Foer in his journey to the Ukraine in order to track down the woman who had saved Foer's departed grandfather from the Nazis during World War II. Along for the ride are Alex’s psychologically affected fake-blind grandfather and his deranged seeing eye dog named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. Schreiber’s meticulously crafted film is visually impressive with moments of sheer beauty that are easy to miss during the first viewing as we are too drawn in by the dialogue, most notably Alex’s hilarious butchering of the English language and the culture clash experienced by the American Foer in his Ukrainian surroundings. Filled with lively music indicative of its setting and offbeat humor that will appeal to literary-minded viewers, the film is also quite touching and it’s a shame that it didn’t do better with audiences during its initial theatrical run. Note: While book-wise I preferred Foer’s postmodern 9/11 follow-up Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to his debut Everything Is Illuminated, I sincerely hope that if the second book is ever brought to the big screen, Schreiber will once again be considered as his achievement in this (his first film) is illuminating indeed.