I have to admit it’s never easy adapting a novel into a film, especially such a beloved one like Everything is Illuminated. I wouldn’t say that my expectations for the film were high because I had enjoyed the novel but nonetheless there are certain comparisons to be made. As I watched, however, I did my best to think of the film as independent of the novel and judge it for its own merits. Although it did have some quality moments, the film left me a bit unimpressed.
Just like the novel, we follow Jonathan (Elijah Wood) as he attempts to find Trachimbrod, the town where his grandfather grew up, and Augustine, the woman who saved him from the Nazis. He ventures over to the Ukraine and enlists tour guides, Alex (Eugene Hutz) and his grandfather (Boris Leskin), that specialize in “heritage tours.” Aided by their seeing eye bitch, Sammy Davis Jr. Jr., they travel across the Ukraine searching for this town. Along the way, they manage to explore each other’s prejudices—Alex thinks all Jews have “shit between the brains”—and bond over their respective families’ horrifying pasts.