Beautiful usually applies to what inspires emotion rather than intellectual appreciation, but it simply needs to be said: El Secreto de Sus Ojos/The Secret in Their Eyes is a beautiful movie. It touches the imagination, it arouses strong emotion and it challenges your intelligence. It is the kind of movie that will meet various needs: detective story, thriller, romance, historical journey into the Argentine of the 1970s. And if this was not absorbing enough, there are some incredible performances by Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil or Guillermo Francella.
Benjamín Espósito is a retired investigator who has been haunted for twenty-five years by an unresolved rape and murder case, the death of his friend, Pablo Sandoval, and his hidden, unrequited feelings for his boss, Irene Menéndez-Hastings. With no family and a lot of time on his hands, he decides to write a personal account of the 1974 events that changed his life and the lives of those he loved. The action swifts from 1999 to 1974 when Benjamín Espósito is investigating the case of Liliana Colotto alongside his drunkard friend and colleague, Pablo. The young dead teacher and her husband, Ricardo Morales, share an incredible love story and his wife's loss becomes a lifetime obsession for the widower. Benjamin is touched by the intense love as he is himself besotted with Irene, his boss who is about to get married. Caught in a corrupt fight of judges and lawyers, personal vendetta and putrid justice system, the three of them managed to catch the killer, Isidoro Gómez, only to helplessly watch him escape punishment and join police forces. Twenty-fives years later, the case is finally solved and Benjamín Espósito makes peaces with his past, his grief, his life.
Winner of the 2009 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and directed by Juan José Campanella, known for his TV work on the American Law and Order and House, El Secreto de Sus Ojos has everything you can hope for in a movie: a well-knit plot, a smooth swift between past and present, good actors, a vivid description of the manners of the Argentinian society and some exquisite scenes that remain imprinted on your memory. A man's passions can never be hidden as they define his being and forever betray his heart. Isidoro Gómez loves football as Pablo cunningly discovers in the letters sent to his mother and Benjamín and Pablo start going to football matches. In a view from the top, we descend from heaven into a huge stadium, swarming with football fans, following the game on the football pitch than mingling with the enthusiastic crowd only to discover the two friends. It is a five-minute scene that proves Juan José Campanella to be a great director.
Important moments are pointed out by little teasers such as the cleavage Irene touches in an attempt to button her shirt, with the camera quickly lingering on he shirt only to turn an accidentally torn blouse into the triggering moment Irene uses to provoke Gómez into a violent confession of the rape. Even the brief exposure of Gómez's sexual organs comes as a natural gesture in the dramatic scene. The directing is confident and self-assured, with excellent camera work and editing, yet not depriving the movie of emotion and surprise. Also, dramatic encounters usually happen in rail stations, on the platform, between trains, where choices mingle with endless faces and feelings get trapped between railways. However, their power is overrated and missed opportunities only grow into beautiful second chances after twenty-five years.
How do you live a life full of nothing? is the question that haunts Benjamín Espósito. You feel it by making peace with your past and your demons, by letting go of the bad blood and by holding tight to the woman you love.