The Secret in Their Eyes (Juan José Campanella, 2009)
Soledad Villamil (Irene Menéndez Hastings), Ricardo Darín (Benjamín Esposito), Guillermo Francella (Pablo Sandoval). Screenplay by Eduardo Sacheri and Juan José Campanella. Directed by Juan José Campanella. Rating: 18. Running time: 129 minutes.
This is a special one. A real, real delight. Unheard of until it surprisingly picked up the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, The Secret in Their Eyes has since left the borders of Argentina and is now finally brought to us all around the world. Having not seen the other contenders for that award, and knowing that both A Prophet and The White Ribbon were also very well regarded, I cannot fairly say whether it deserved to win. All I know is that it has warmed my heart in the strangest but most sincere of ways, by being a film that is both touchingly romantic and an exhibit of aching injustice, all through the eyes of a man too gentle to deserve the tormenting of his soul for over twenty years.
That man, Esposito, never got over one of the crimes he once had to investigate when working as a federal agent, and now, as a nostalgic old retiree, he’s intent on writing a book about it to try and free himself of its pain once and for all. Through flashbacks, we learn of his life and what he went through. The crime bugging him was a rape and homicide case, in which a young, just-married woman was taken away from her lover, and the authorities then immune from real notions of justice blamed the crime on whoever they could, closed the file and moved on. As Esposito explained to his senior and then love-interest, what aggravated him so much about the case and what compelled him to fight on, was the look in the eyes of the man who had been deprived of justice. The woman’s husband spent most of the next year of his life sitting on a bench in the city’s main train station, looking out for the man both him and Esposito suspected of having really committed the crime. For his sake, he fought on, reopening a case and story that continually surprises in the emotions it stirs.
It’s solemn, but it’s not all as grim as it sounds. There’s plenty of quiet humour here, especially in the film’s early stages and between Esposito and his work partner, a clumsy alcoholic that actually provides the biggest breakthrough in the case by noting that regardless of a man’s ability to change his location, relationships and work habits, no man can change his passion. Letters sent from their seemingly invisible suspect thus lead them to a football game, and in dedication to the husband’s train-watching, they spend months scouring the explosive crowd, an activity that ends up leading to both a breakthrough and one of the film’s best sequences.
It’s not possible to say much more, for it is in the context of becoming absorbed by these characters and truly caring for them that the film’s unforeseen events, when revealed to us, have their most powerful impact. You’ll just have to take my word for it: it’s perfectly done. A touching tale, that couldn’t have been told, acted or written much better than it is.
Filed under: crime, drama, hispanic, romance | 2 Comments
Tags: a prophet, argentina, best foreign film, buenos aires, football, injustice, Juan José Campanella, racing, Ricardo Darín, the secret in their eyes, the white ribbon