Picks and Pans Review: Everything Is Illuminated

updated 10/03/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/03/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Elijah Wood, Eugene Hutz, Boris Leskin

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The good news regarding Everything Is Illuminated is that talented actor Liev Schreiber (The Manchurian Candidate) is a born director. In his debut film (for which he also wrote the screenplay, adapting Jonathan Safran Foer's best-selling 2002 novel), he shows a distinctive sense of how to frame a scene, develop a character and set a mood. And unlike many other thespians who go behind the lens, Schreiber doesn't allow his cast to wallow in chest-thumping, actory moments.

The movie (eliminating big chunks of the book) concentrates on the journey a young American (Wood) takes through Ukraine to find the woman who saved his Jewish grandfather from the Nazis. His guides: a local would-be hipster (Hutz) and the man's surly, non-English speaking grandpa (Leskin). Much of this is funny, some of it touching, and all worth watching. A pallid Wood mostly acts by widening his eyes from behind his grotesquely giant glasses, but Hutz and Leskin turn in affecting performances. (PG-13)


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