The big questions of obsession, vengeance, love, and loyalty

The Secret in Their Eyes

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


 

            Pay close attention right from the beginning of "The Secret in Their Eyes." You will see two parallel stories unfold, each with a footing in the plot at the beginning, each picked up again 25 years later. So you are dealing with multiple characters at different ages in a very complicated plot. If that isn't enough, you are trying to read the expressions on their faces at the same time you are reading the subtitles, a neat trick if you can do it. But, in the best of surprises, it's worth the effort. This film from Argentina won the academy award for Best Foreign Film in 2009.

            Benjamin (Ricardo Darin) works on staff as a court officer of some kind. His boss is Irene (Soledad Villamil), the woman he loves without any sense of the entitlement that might allow him to approach her with his feelings. With the help of his alcoholic sidekick, Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella) Benjamin sets out to find the rapist/murderer of a beautiful young woman. When the case is closed with an apparent murderer in jail, Benjamin and Irene go their separate ways.

            Twenty-five years later, Benjamin returns to the court where Irene is now a Judge, his love for her and his obsession with the murder case both undiminished. He has tried and failed to write about the case and plunges without hesitation into the unanswered questions.

            And so, as they say, this is a love story and a murder mystery of the old fashioned kind - unspooling at once in the talented hands of director Juan Jose Campanella; but that is far too simple a view of a movie that wings its way through two stories while touching down - briefly, but quite definitely - on some big questions of obsession, vengeance, love, and loyalty.

            Irene to Benjamin: "My whole life I've looked forward; backwards is out of my jurisdiction." Benjamin's whole life is unfolding in the rearview mirror. Pablo to Benjamin: "There's one thing guys can't change; you can change your face, your home, your family, but you can't change your passion." And this in turn is a key both to Benjamin's future and to the solution of the murder. It is the same Pablo whose loyalty to Benjamin will be proven in spades. Another character shows his loyalty in a chilling Hitchcockian value warp.

            It is a movie lover's pleasure to watch Soledad Villamil whose presence and intelligence infuse the character of Irene. Ricardo Darin is excellent as the man who loves her. The final scenes answer all the questions raised by the twists and turns and by the passage of time through flashbacks, and it is rewarding, if confusing, to watch a slew of characters offering answers to the big questions that fly by. They are an awkward and explosive bunch driven by complicated interior lives. Some prevail, others self-destruct. They are, in short, human beings of all stripes.
 

 


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