"The Secret in Their Eyes" Movie Review (2010)

4/19/2010 Posted by Admin

Movie Review

"The Secret in Their Eyes"

Directed by Juan Jose Campanella, Written by Eduardo Sacheri and Campanella, 127 Minutes, Rated R

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"The Secret in Their Eyes" was the unexpected winner of this year's Oscar for Best Foreign Film, triumphing over the expected shoe-ins "A Prophet" and "The White Ribbon." What can I say--it may have been an upset, but I can't think of stiffer competition than this gem.

The film is an interesting mix of a thriller, romance and detective story, blending these genres to tell a story that spans two decades and concerns the passions and memories of multiple figures surrounding the rape and murder of a young woman in Buenos Aires in 1974.

Twenthy years after the murder, retired federal justice agent Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) begins writing a novel dramatizing the events he witnessed while investigating the murder, including his secret love for his superior Irene Menendez-Hastings (Soledad Villamil), his rough relationship with his partner Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella), and the ambiguous mystery of who actually committed the crime, the woman's husband Ricardo or her sociopathic childhood friend Gomez. As Benjamin, just returning to Buenos Aires after years working elsewhere, shows his story to the now married Irene, we flashback to the investigation and watch the relationship between the two develop in both timelines.

Technically, the film is an absolute marvel. Makeup and probably some subtle CGI allow the actors to portray their characters in both timelines, avoiding the dilemma films like this tend to have with different actors portraying the same characters and thus emotional connections getting shattered in the process. The film itself is shot beautifully, especially the gorgeous opening scene and one epic-length five minute take where Benjamin and Sandoval chase Gomez through a packed soccer stadium that allegedly took three days to shoot and nine months to edit.

But the film really succeeds through its story, which is perfectly told and which strikes a perfect balance between its multiple characters, styles, and timelines. Telling what is basically a traditional detective story through retrospect is pretty inspired, and it allows the film to tell a flat-out entertaining mystery as well as explore themes of memory and how dwelling on our memories can ruin us. As one character says, "Stop dwelling on memories. You'll start thinking of how things could be different. You'll have a thousand pasts and no future."

Darin, who has worked with director Juan Jose Campanella in his last four films, is fantastic as Esposito, but credit really has to go to the whole cast, who portray their characters (young and old) with immense subtlety and heart. Their performances make it feel almost immediately like we know their characters. And for a film that often focuses on the unspoken truths we can see just in each others gaze, each actor can tell a whole story just with their eyes. When Esposito looks into Irene's eyes, we know he's loved her since he first saw her. When he looks at his partner Sandoval, we see the pity he has for the poor drunk, but also the admiration and respect they share for one another despite their differences. And the absolute terror Gomez can create with one glance is astounding.

I'm not sure I'd say this film definitely deserved the Oscar--it's too tough to really choose when all the nominees were among the best of last year--but I think it definitely earned its place next to such great works as "A Prophet" and "Ajami" and hopefully its win will get it the attention it deserves from audiences.

Grade: A

View the trailer for "The Secret in Their Eyes" below.  What are your thoughts?

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