The Secret in Their Eyes

 The Secret In Their Eyes

Film review by: Witney Seibold

 Michael Haneke‘s “The White Ribbon” was one of the best films of the last decade. Jacques Audiard‘s “Un Prophète” was a powerhouse film that could, without too much complaint, be called one of the best films of 2009. And yet these two films, when it came to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film, were beaten by Juan José Campanella‘s yet-unseen Argentinian film “The Secret in Their Eyes.” This only piqued my curiosity; when it finally opened in America theaters, surely this film would prove to be quite something. I am pleased to report that “The Secret in Their Eyes” is a gorgeously mounted, meticulously constructed, multi-layered, adult drama that manages to masterfully and craftily weave several plotlines together, some of which are sensationalistic violent revenge plots, some of which are simple love stories, and most of which span a ten-year period. It is a rather good film.

Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darín) is our antihero. He was once a clerk in a DA’s office, accustomed to menial tasks like typing and filing, but would occasionally have to run investigative errands, and crack minor cases. I don’t know the details of the Argentinian criminal justice system, but evidently the DAs are a combination of lawyer, clerk, judge’s aide, and investigative reporter. Benjamin is graying now, retired, and pondering writing a crime novel based on the one most notorious case he worked on some 10 years ago. In order to get his facts straight, he must reunite with his old co-worker Irene (Soledad Villamil), now a high-powered judge herself, and for whom Benjamin still carries a torch.

The case he wants to write about involved the murder of a young woman, and the tracking of the suspects, despite a general lack of evidence, and a few shady dealings by the government, perhaps. Benjamin, in extended flashbacks, remembers each detail of the case, his relationship with his alcoholic best friend Ricardo (Guillermo Francella), the birth of his smoldering attraction for Irene, and the unexpected consoling he must do for the dead girl’s boyfriend (Pablo Rago). There are a few tense chases, a few scenes of brilliant good-cop-bad-cop politicking, a few sexually tense scenes between Benjamin and Irene, and the slow, brilliant uncoiling of details. This is tempered by the investigation which takes place in the present day. The way the two timelines intersect, indicate one another, and rely on one another… well, screenwriting students could do well to pay attention.

The way time’s passage and flashbacks play into this movie is much more believable and skillfully crafted than most films to employ the device. We really get the sense that 10 years have passed; the actors not only look aged, but seem to have the air of experience about them. We see the idealistic contrasted with the defeated. We get to see the how some facts fade into obscurity while others only amplify. We see how it takes a grown adult to consider the truth, and have the gumption to seek it. And, more than anything, we get a real sense of the way two grown adults, clearly attracted to each other, but separated by decades of forced politeness, manage to related and talk to one another.

 

No mere love story, no mere political thriller, no mere cop drama, no mere treatise on the passage of time, “The Secret in Their Eyes” manages to be all of these things, and all of these things well.

Is it better or worse than “Un Prophète” or “The White Ribbon?” Can they not all be brilliant movies?

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Published in: on May 3, 2010 at 7:53 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Here it isnt right: “his relationship with his alcoholic best friend Ricardo (Pablo Rago), the birth of his smoldering attraction for Irene, and the unexpected consoling he must do for the dead girl’s boyfriend (Javier Godino)”.

    It is: “his relationship with his alcoholic best friend Pablo (Guillermo Francella), the birth of his smoldering attraction for Irene, and the unexpected consoling he must do for the dead girl’s boyfriend (Pablo Rago)”.

    Javier Godino is the actor whom plays the suspect.

    • That was a sloppy mistake, and it has been corrected.

      Thanks.

      • No problem. It something that happens.

  2. I think that it should be the dead girl’s husband (we see her wedding pics). Also, it was 25 years ago, as the widower shouts, not 10… 🙂

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