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The Secret in Their Eyes (2009) ****

June 11, 2010

 

written by: Eduardo Sacheri & Juan José Campanella
produced by: Juan José Campanella, Gerardo Herrero, Mariela Besuievski, Vanessa Ragone & Axel Kuschevatzky
directed by: Juan José Campanella
rated R (for a rape scene, violent images, some graphic nudity and language)
127 min.
U.S. release date: April 16, 2010
 
 
Here’s yet another reason not to cry for Argentina. During this year’s Oscars, “El secreto de sus ojos” or  “The Secret in the Their Eyes, stunned critics and predictors by winning the award for Best Foreign Language Film, a first for any Latin American country. While almost everyone was expecting Germany (Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon”) or France (Jacques Audiard’s “Un Prophète”) to win, writer/editor/director Juan Jose Campanella’s splendid crime drama deservedly took home the gold. With its solid structure, great acting, and a fantastic screenplay, this film, ultimately about passion, achieves greatness.
 
Like other great films, the less you know going in the better off you are. But it does help to at least prepare yourself for what you will be experiencing. At one key point in the film, a character points out that, “A guy can change anything. His face, his home, his family, his girlfriend, his religion,his God. But there’s one thing he can’t change. He can’t change his passion.” And passion turns out to be one of the central themes of this film.  The passion of crime, the passion of love or the passion for justice. What all of these have in common is an unrelenting pursuit to maintain and/or preserve that passion.
 
 
 
SECRET IN THEIR EYES Still 1
 
 
 
The story starts out in 1999, as we are introduced to Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin), a newly retired federal justice agent who is attempting to fill his time by writing a novel. The subject of the novel his drawn from true events, an old case that still haunts him which takes us back to 1974 through his hindsight. The case was the brutal rape and murder of young woman, Liliana Colotto (Carla Quevedo) in a Buenos Aires neighborhood. The event left Liliana’s widow, Ricardo (Pablo Rago), devastated and  motivated to bring the killer to justice. Benjamin thinks back to the obvious love Pablo had for his wife, which remind him how he parallels a similar feeling he had back then and possibly still does today.
 
Since it was twenty-five years ago, Benjamin seeks out his former employer and object of attraction, Irene (Soledad Villamil), in an effort to recall the events that took place. Their conversations take the audience into the past which not only guides us through the investigation but also enhances our understanding of who these characters are. We see Pablo’s grief and obsession and are introduced to Benjamin’s alcoholic (yet functional) co-worker, Pablo (Guillermo Francella), as well as the dubious disposition of Gomez (Javier Godino), a suspect in the case. Reflecting on the case isn’t just providing material for Benjamin’s book, but it is also reigniting his love for Irene which was never acted upon in the past.
 
The murder investigation wouldn’t be the most compelling aspect of the film if it weren’t for the emotions found in all the characters affected. The retired Benjamin is slightly jaded with all that he’s seen yet this case still fills him with doubt. The younger Benjamin has an eagerness to solve the case, not only to bring the killer to justice and give closure to Pablo, but also to impress Irene. The film’s title comes into play in a unique way as Benjamin thumbs through photos of Liliana and finds a man appearing in multiple pictures. A man whose eyes give away much. Benjamin sees this as a valuable clue but also connects, possibly relates, to the images in a revealing way.
  
   

 

Of course this intriguing and enthralling story would go nowhere without solid character actors for Campanella to work with. I was as unfamiliar with these great actors as I was their director and it was a pleasure to see them master their roles. To say that this cast is intoxicating is an understatement. There are nuanced layers brought to each character, whether they are charming, humorous or uncomfortably suspicious, that lead you to just sit back and admire these actors. It’s a real treat to be able to experience these actors for the first time and once the film ends, you’ll want to devour anything else they’ve been in.  

When you see “The Secret in Their Eyes” , it will become one of those films that you will continue to reply in your mind again. Not because of any particular twist but moreso for the journey these characters take you on. You’ll want to discuss this story with others and let everyone know they should see it for themselves.  Probably one of the best aspects of this film is that it reminds us that there are never any simple or easy resolutions to situations involving passion. Campanella delivers a film that is worthy of the various awards it has received, one in where the puzzle pieces will linger even after you’ve let them go.   
 

 

 

 

5 Comments leave one →
  1. augimatic permalink
    June 11, 2010 6:23 am

    Sounds great but u can’t netflix it yet

    • June 11, 2010 6:55 am

      I don’t know that Netflix was mentioned in this review. Keep your pants on Augster. It will come.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      June 11, 2010 4:31 pm

      Actually, it’s still in select theaters right now.

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