Raymond Shaw... er, Lieb Schreiber... has been freed from brainwashing... er, acting... and has directed his first motion picture - "Everything is Illuminated." Haven't heard of it? Well, you should have.
Elijah Wood stars as an American Jewish man who travels to Ukraine to find the woman who helped save his grandfather from death in World War II. Aided by a gangster-wannabe local and his blind-but-not-really grandfather, he sets out for the small town where the woman is supposed to be, but knowing nothing more than that. Along the way, they discover much more than the truth.
A quirky drama-comedy that moves along the line of "About Schmidt" only with a more serious nature and bits about the Jewish slaughter at the hands of Nazis (so really, not like "About Schmidt at all), "Illuminated" is a beautiful and interesting little film that will never gain widespread appeal but should catch a few people's eyes, as long as they take the time to watch it (God, I'm sounding like a football commentator: "To win the game they have to score more points than their opponent"). Wood is good in the lead, although he really doesn't have to do much other than stand on camera, give a weird expression the entire time and do even odder things. The real star is Eugene Hutz, who plays Alex, the Ukrainian translator who tags along with Wood's character. Hutz is funny yet caring, and by far the most interesting character in the movie. It's hard to relate with him yet at the same time he is just like anyone else, and the movie makes you want to relate to him more. All in all, Wood is more of the vessel that drives the story, but the story's most important aspects are the other people involved.
As Schreiber's first film, "Illuminated" is an astounding success. While a little slow in a few parts, the movie's pacing rarely wavers, and the beautiful scenery and intriguing flashbacks show that Schreiber has the potential to make more great movies in the future.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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