Everything Is Illuminated (film)

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Everything Is Illuminated
Chicago Sun-Times
Everything Is Illuminated movie poster
Directed byLiev Schreiber
Screenplay byLiev Schreiber
Based onEverything Is Illuminated
by Jonathan Safran Foer[1]
Produced by
CinematographyMatthew Libatique
Edited byAndrew Marcus
Craig McKay
Music byPaul Cantelon
Sergei Shnurov
Distributed byWarner Independent Pictures
Release date
  • September 16, 2005 (2005-09-16)
Running time
104 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States
Budget$7 million[4]
Box office$3.6 million[5]

Everything Is Illuminated is a 2005 American biographical comedy-drama film, written and directed by Liev Schreiber and starring Elijah Wood and Eugene Hütz. It was adapted from the novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer, and was the debut film of Liev Schreiber both as a director and as a screenwriter.[6][7]


Jonathan Safran Foer, a young American Jew, goes on a quest to Ukraine to find the woman, Augustine, who saved his grandfather, Safran Foer, during the Holocaust in a small Ukrainian town called Trachimbrod that was wiped off the map when the Nazis liquidated Eastern European shtetls.

His guides, who drive up from Odesa to meet Jonathan as he arrives at the train station in Lviv, are a cranky, seemingly antisemitic grandfather, his wound-up dog named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr., and his enthusiastic grandson, Alex, who constantly chatters with a unique command of English and a passion for American pop culture that keeps the arduous journey lighter. These guides have been escorting wealthy Americans in search of their roots for decades. They are generally not very knowledgeable about the subject of finding Jews, and usually just attempt to scam them by taking them on long journeys. However, after hearing Jonathan's compelling story, they decide they actually want to help him.

Along the way in Volhynia, as they travel in search of the shtetl in the region around Lutsk, they have a series of misadventures, many of them humorous and based on the culture shock Jonathan experiences as an American tourist in Ukraine.

Traveling through much of rural western Ukraine, the three men eventually find Augustine's sister, Lista. She lives by herself in a house in the midst of a great sunflower field, isolated from technology and from news of the outside world. Lista tells them that Augustine was killed by Nazi soldiers after her father refused to spit on the Torah. And she leads them to the site where the town had been.

The next night Alex's grandfather quietly kills himself. Through flashbacks, it was revealed he was Jewish. During the massacre of the Jews of his town in the Holocaust, he was shot and thrown into a mass grave. But hours later, he regained consciousness and crawled out of the pit alive, and managed to survive the war himself by hiding his identity as a Jew. He abandoned this identity permanently, symbolically walking away from it.

Jonathan returns home to America after saying farewell to Alex, to whom he has grown close. They strike up a correspondence.

Both Jonathan and Alex sprinkle soil gathered from the site of the massacre on their respective grandfathers' graves. Alex's grandfather is given a Jewish tombstone.



The score for Everything Is Illuminated features eight original tracks composed by Paul Cantelon,[8] along with songs by Russian ska punk band Leningrad, Arkady Severny, Csókolom, Tin Hat Trio, and Gogol Bordello, whose lead singer Eugene Hütz plays Alex. The band members of Gogol Bordello play the band in the train station where the character Alex has come to meet his US client, Jonathan Foer. DeVotchKa's single "How It Ends" is featured in the trailer, but not in the official soundtrack.

Critical response[edit]

American Chronicle counted the film among the "rare films that encapsulate the emotion of discovery and drama with humor",[9] while Time Out New York called it Liev Schreiber's "unbelievably assured debut as a director".[10] Roger Ebert praised the film, assigning it 3 and a half stars out of 4, and suggested that one might well see it a second time, as he did, "to understand the journey it takes".[3]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Foer, Jonathan Safran (2002). Everything Is Illuminated: A Novel. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0-618-17387-0.
  2. ^ "Everything Is lluminated (2005)". British Film Institute.
  3. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (September 22, 2005). "An illuminating journey". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  4. ^ "His work illuminated". Los Angeles Times. January 16, 2005. Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  5. ^ "Everything Is Illuminated (2005". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  6. ^ Scott, A. O. (16 September 2005). "A Journey Inspired by Family Becomes One of Forgiveness". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  7. ^ Etherington, Daniel. "Everything Is Illuminated [Film Review]". Channel 4. Archived from the original on 19 June 2006. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  8. ^ "Everything Is Illuminated". AllMusic. Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  9. ^ Simpson, Mary Anne (19 January 2007). "A Review of the Movie: Everything is Illuminated". American Chronicle. Archived from the original on 13 August 2012. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  10. ^ "Everything Is Illuminated". Time Out Worldwide. October 28, 2005. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  11. ^ "Vladivostok International Film Festival". vladivostokfilmfestival.ru (in Russian). Retrieved 2022-12-17.
  12. ^ ""Сокурсники"". Herzen Library (in Russian). Retrieved 2022-12-17.

External links[edit]