By Debbie Elicksen.
Liev Schreiber wrote and directed this gem of a screenplay, based on the book by Jonathan Safran Foer. Everything Is Illuminated (2005) is beautifully told story about a young man who visits his grandfather’s homeland to learn more about his family history.
Jonathan Safran Foer (Elijah Wood) has declared himself as his family’s historian, and when his grandmother dies, she left behind a photograph that was taken before World War II in a Ukrainian village of his grandfather and a woman. The woman, Augustine (Tereza Veselkova), was credited with saving his grandfather’s life by helping him get to America before the Nazis came through to destroy the town and murder all the people who lived there.
The Ukrainian guides he hires: Alex (Eugene Hutz), his grandfather (Boris Leskin) and his dog Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. initially start out with less honorable intentions — to just show the young Jew a cemetery to prove everyone is dead. But what happens is the journey of family discovery has as much impact on the guides as it does their passenger.
What a great movie. Perhaps it resonated with me more because of my own Ukrainian roots that stem back to Chortkow, Eastern Galicia, the site of another genocide at the hands of the Nazis.
Everything Is Illuminated has exceptional optics and I love how the screenplay transitions to the next chapter, as if turning the pages of the book. I give this four out of five stars.