tek's rating:

Everything is Illuminated (PG-13)
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This is based on a book, which I haven't read. So, I can't compare it to the source material, but of course Wikipedia can. Anyway... there's a young Jewish American man named Jonathan Foer (Elijah Wood), who is a collector of things concerning his family. He seems rather odd, to me... his collection seems kind of obsessive, or something. And just in general, he seems kind of... man, I dunno. I almost wanna say vaguely Aspergian, but not really. I dunno. (At least, somewhat detached.) Anyway... his grandmother gives him a photograph from like 1940, which was taken in the Ukraine. His grandfather and a young woman named Augustine were in the photograph, and apparently she had helped him escape from the Ukraine before the Nazis showed up and occupied the place and killed a bunch of Jews.

So, Jonathan wants to learn more about this, and he travels to the Ukraine, looking for a village called Trachimbrod. He hires a pair of guides to help him. The main one we get to know is Alex Perchov (played by Eugene Hütz, the singer from the band Gogol Bordello; he also narrates the film). Actually, both his father and grandfather are also named Alexander. The grandfather will be the driver, and Alex is the translator, though his English isn't so premium. Also accompanying them is the grandfather's "seeing eye bitch," a demented dog who he seems to care about more than anything (having gotten her after his wife died). The dog's name is Sammy Davis Jr., Jr., being named after his favorite singer, Sammy Davis, Jr. (duh). Oh, and the grandfather thinks he's blind (hence the dog), though everyone knows he's not (hence his ability to drive). Alex is a fan of American culture, especially that of "Negroes," most notably Michael Jackson. (At one point, Jonathan tries to explain that Alex shouldn't use that word, but he doesn't understand.) Well, actually there's a lot that Alex doesn't understand about Jonathan. Part of it I think is a language barrier, part of it is perhaps because Jonathan is a bit odd, and partly because of cultural differences between America and the Ukraine (for example, no one there seems to have any concept of vegetarianism, and think there must be something wrong with Jonathan because he doesn't eat meat).

Anyway... the movie has a fair amount of low-key humor, as well as a lot of dramatic stuff about local history, and how it had affected both Alex's grandfather and Jonathan's grandfather, as well as a woman they eventually meet, whose name I don't think was ever said in the movie, though apparently it was Lista. She'd tell them some stuff about Augustine, and what had happened in Trachimbrod all those years ago. Also, it seems like she was a collector, much like Jonathan. But it took quite awhile before Jonathan and his guides finally found her; no one else they met earlier seemed to know anything about Trachimbrod. I can't really say anything else about the plot, but it was a good, somewhat quirky story, well-acted, with some good music (including a couple things by Gogol Bordello, of course). The movie's not something I feel the need to ever see again, but it was definitely interesting to have seen once.

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