Mixed or average reviews - based on 35 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 35
  2. Negative: 1 out of 35
  1. 88
    A film that grows in reflection. The first time I saw it, I was hurtling down the tracks of a goofy ethnic comedy when suddenly we entered dark and dangerous territory. I admired the film but did not sufficiently appreciate its arc.
  2. For one of those obstreperously original books that are themselves impossible to translate, Everything Is Illuminated is impressively well lit.
  3. 83
    Rambles and sometimes wobbles like a runaway movie. But Schreiber's instincts keep the film frolicsome and vital.
  4. Reviewed by: Damon Wise
    A thoughtful approach to a much-covered topic, mixing prickly issues of roots and genocide with an eye for the surreal and an ear for the earthy.
  5. Reviewed by: G. Allen Johnson
    An almost screwball comedy that turns serious.
  6. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    Actor-turned-first-time-filmmaker Liev Schreiber tosses out most of what made Jonathan Safran Foer's too-clever-by-half debut novel so precious, rooting out the heart of Foer's story from the precocious bombast.
  7. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Though not as far-reaching as the book from which it was adapted, Everything Is Illuminated is a movie with wit, warmth and unabashed emotion.
  8. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    I have misgivings about Schreiber's use of the well-worn "I'll make you empathize with these Others, but first let's have laughs at their expense" approach, but eventually I was won over by his humane, moving road trip.
  9. Leave it to Liev: Schreiber capably adds writer-director to his impressive resume with this winning take on the Jonathan Safran Foer novel.
  10. Schreiber takes Foer's sprawling, multilayered, multigenerational beast and hones it into a post-Glasnost buddy picture; a polished nugget of a road movie, focused mainly on Alex and Jonathan's growing sense of identification with each other and with their origins.
  11. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    This often vivid movie, though it doesn't quite attain its highest intentions, is well worth seeing. And thinking about.
  12. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Wood's powerlessness to break out of the emotive straightjacket hands the picture to his Russian costars on a platter, and they run with it.
  13. Not everything is illuminated in his (Liev Schreiber) version, but the book's humanity and humor shine through.
  14. 67
    There's a daring to Everything Is Illuminated that commends it somewhat more than its achievement deserves.
  15. Though Wood is the star, it's Hutz who is the indelible presence.
  16. And although Schreiber's hip, intelligent eye is a nice match for Foer's hip, intelligent pen, his movie strays from its own history, creating instead a world, as Alex would say, that is "once-removed."
  17. Whimsically conjures the magic-realist imagery of the novel while pruning the book of its narrative undergrowth. What results is a striking piece of topiary shorn of its vital branches.
  18. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Everything Is Illuminated hasn't been adapted so much as gutted, stuffed, and mounted.
  19. Schreiber has one major casting coup in Eugene Hutz, the New York-based Ukrainian/Gypsy/Punk musician who plays Alex.
  20. Schreiber's edits gut the story of its power and punch. His film is strong on comedy and farce, enjoyable as a quirky-friendship gag, but it fails in its attempt at tragedy.
  21. Reviewed by: Hank Stuever
    A clinically adequate, occasionally above-average art house film. In certain moments, it has all the subtlety and illumination one should ever need.
  22. Schreiber's directing is ambitious, but it is nowhere near the originality and truth in his acting. Throughout the film we can feel him striving to control, to invent, to glisten.
  23. The presentation has verve. But the story is confusingly told - everything is NOT illuminated - and, as the seeker, Elijah Wood is a big blank.
  24. 50
    Wood, whose mostly mute turn is defined by his black suit and glasses, can only stare in stupefaction at Schreiber's jittery mix of broad laughs and sentiment. Audiences will share the feeling.
  25. 50
    The problem -- aside from the fact that one of the best things about Foer's story is its irreverent, intricate, just-maybe-brilliant writing -- is what Schreiber has decided to cut.
  26. It's as if two-thirds of the book have been reduced to one-word chapter headings.
  27. 50
    This movie is sloppy and disjointed - an unsatisfying melodrama built upon a shaky foundation of contrivances, coincidences, and plot holes.
  28. Has a haunting afterglow, one that neither satisfies nor illuminates, but at least keeps the flame alive.
  29. 50
    Snaps to life too late. But at least there IS life in it. It doesn't hold together as a piece of filmmaking, but there's no doubt it comes from somewhere close to Schreiber's heart.
  30. 50
    But the parts of Foer's lively novel that didn't get cut in the script stage have died on the way to the screen. To be fair, it's not an easy novel to adapt.
  31. Foer's ironic ideas have a lovely roundness to them, and somehow the film achieves Holocaust-fiction balance without much ado or melodrama. It may be substantially less ambitious than its source material, but that may be what saves it from implosion.
  32. Taken on its own, without comparison with its literary source, the movie, Mr. Schreiber's first as writer and director, is thin and soft, whimsical when it should be darkly funny and poignant when it should be devastating.
  33. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    Everything Is Illuminated is not a fiasco, but in some ways I'd have preferred a fiasco—something overreaching and inchoate instead of this self-consciously artistic mood piece.
  34. Alternately mawkish and strident, with lots of fades to white and dog reaction shots, this can be recommended only for its good intentions.
  35. 25
    Liev Schreiber's film version of "Everything Is Illuminated" achieves the impossible — it's even more annoying than Jonathan Safran Foer's gratingly precocious novel.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 47 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 23
  2. Negative: 2 out of 23
  1. May 14, 2012
    "Everything is Illuminated" is a movie about memories and the things that certain people do with them. Some treasure each memory with zeal and optimism; others spend a lifetime filtering every dark moment with a hope of never having to suffer in remembrance of it. So many things can happen to us, both good and bad, and it's not unusual to occasionally wish that we can control our ability to remember, and forget.

    Elijah Wood stars as Jonathan, a Jewish-American who is about to travel to Ukraine in search of the woman who saved his grandfather's life during the Second World War. His eyes are magnified by his thick glasses and his hair is cautiously combed, which rightfully matches his black suite. Our first impression of Jonathan is a man who is curious and disciplined. We are even hinted that he has an obsessive-compulsive nature the first time we see a wall in his home almost completely covered with plastic bags containing items that is there to simply remind him.

    While Jonathan is yet to arrive, we are introduced to a Ukrainian family whose business is to help Jews find the place where their ancestors have perished. This is where the movie suddenly adapts a comedic tone. The eldest son is Alex, who is the film's narrator. His skills in English are lacking in an appealing way. He claims to be a "premium" dancer, and is not very excited to learn that he must accompany his grandfather in "the commencement of a very rigid search." Because Grandfather, the designated driver of the search, claims to be blind, they bring along Sammy Davis Junior Jr. He is the official "seeing eye **** I kinda love these guys.

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  2. Apr 26, 2014
    My score is based on the movie alone, I didn't read the book. Movie about memories and how they impact us. It has a bitter twist, there's a comedy and a tragedy. Also the acting was very memorable, a really good movie. Full Review »
  3. BryanM
    Oct 27, 2009
    Though admittedly I have not read the book, even as a more shallow adaptation, this film cannot be denied as a work of art.