The Secret In Their Eyes

The surprise winner of last year’s Academy Award for best foreign-language film, (pipping the twinned favourites A Prophet and The White Ribbon) Argentinean mystery The Secret in Their Eyes is a gripping story of love and death centred around an unsolved crime in Buenos Aires.

Ricardo Darin excels as Benjamin, a court investigator tormented by the rape and murder of a young bride in her home in 1974. Twenty five years later Benjamin, now retired and struggling to fill his days, is attempting to write a novel about the case and so casts his mind back to the original investigation he undertook with his partner Sandoval (the superb Guillermo Francella). When Benjamin takes a draft of his book to his former boss, Irene (Soledad Villamil), they begin to reminisce about their own relationship, professional and otherwise.

Alone at home, Benjamin revisits the details of the crime, looking to find closure, both for himself and his book. Through extended flashbacks, director Juan José Campanella reveals how the young woman was brutally killed, the effect her death had on her equally young husband Morales (Pablo Rago), and the fractured details of the original, stifled enquiry.

From these beginnings the director, from a screenplay by novelist Eduardo Sacheri, weaves a complex, novelistic story of delayed justice, using the long-forgotten crime as a springboard for ruminations on love and loss and the passage of time. Later, the story expands to incorporate a pointed political message about Argentina’s Dirty War in the 1970s, during which thousands of innocent people were “disappeared” by Jorge Rafael Videla’s military junta.

Although it arrives in Irish cinemas too late to take advantage of the Oscar buzz, The Secret In Their Eyes is the kind of movie they really don’t make very often anymore; a good story, well told. A standout chase through a soccer stadium, seamlessly assembled from dozens of individual shots, injects an adrenal thrill to the story at the mid-way point and is worth the price of admission alone. The complexities of how the scene was shot are as mystifying as anything in the story itself.

There are flaws; the film overplays a series of strangled romantic moments and, more pressingly, struggles to settle on an ending, but these are minor missteps in what is an absorbing drama filled with vivid, beautifully acted characters.

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