Argentinian romantic crime drama The Secret in Their Eyes was released in the U.S. after winning the 2010 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Writer-director Juan Jose Campanella has crafted thoughtfulness and humanity into this masterwork.
Graceful arcs of script are translated lovingly into story on film. Action and plot move in satisfying ways. Relationships develop fully and believably. The film uses no cinematic formula, and only one CSI-like murder scene. It moves from present to past to present with all the naturalness of fully realized drama.
Detective relives his adventures
Soulful Ricardo Darin plays Benjamin Esposito, a retired detective now writing a novel. Benjamin once worked for Irene Menendez Hastings (Soledad Villamil), now a judge. Irene had been Benjamin’s superior in a criminal investigation unit.
Benjamin’s novel revolves around a real case, the rape and murder of a young schoolteacher 25 years ago. The book also reveals a story of forbidden love during those years. Benjamin’s attraction to Irene, a lawyer of wealth and social standing, is so doomed that he dares not pursue it. When the truth emerges, Irene divulges her feelings for Benjamin. Yet she is already engaged.
A mysterious love story
The Secret in Their Eyes is a love story wrapped within a detective story, made more delightful by unexpected infusions of humor. The plot keeps gifting us in unexpected ways. One twist occurs when a fascist government official changes the course of events after Gomez (Javier Godino) is imprisoned for the woman’s murder.
The film also becomes the story of Benjamin’s life and his decisions. Campanella (who directed over a dozen Law & Order: SVU episodes) gives us just enough detail and nuance to portray the detective as a put upon hero who’s always bailing out his alcoholic assistant Sandoval. Yet he is also a dedicated, honest public servant chasing justice.
Benjamin ultimately follows the clues of his own life to transcend what seemed his own certain ending.
Villamil is unforgettable in several scenes, in particular during her cagey interrogation of the schoolteacher’s suspected murderer.
Can we change life?
The Secret in Their Eyes asks several questions. How do we deal with emptiness? How do we reconcile our past life with the present? Here the realities of “what happened” and “what is possible” arise and intertwine.
Felix Monti’s cinematography is unassuming but powerful. Most memorably choreographed is a chase scene in a crowded soccer stadium (CGI effects were utilized). Guillermo Francella creates a tragic, ironic Sandoval, and Pablo Rago convinces us as the murder victim’s obsessed husband Morales. (5 out of 5 stars)
If you like The Secret in Their Eyes you might enjoy: I Am Love.
The Secret in Their Eyes 2009 / R / 2 hrs, 7 min
Cast Overview: Ricardo Darín, Guillermo Francella, Soledad Villamil, Pablo Rago, Javier Godino, José Luis Gioia, Carla Quevedo
Director: Juan Jose Campanella
Genres: Foreign, Foreign Drama, Foreign Romance, Foreign Crime Drama
Language: Spanish with English subtitles