Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Secret in Their Eyes

Directed by Juan José Campanella.
2009. Rated R, 129 minutes, Spanish.
Ricardo Darín
Soledad Villamil
Guillermo Francella
Pablo Rago
Javier Godino
Carla Quevedo
Rudy Romano
José Luis Gioia

Esposito (Darín) is a retired cop and an aspiring novelist. He wants his first book to be based on a case he worked 25 years ago, but still haunts him. Shortly, we find out why. He caught the killer and there was even a conviction. However, the bad guy weasled his way out of jail time and no one has spoken of the case ever since. What happened?

In trying to figure things out, Esposito goes to see Irene Hastings (Villamil), his long-time friend and colleague and one of the people that worked with him on the case. It was the rape and murder of a pretty and recently married young young woman. Esposito and Hastings also seem to have a thing for one another. Through numerous flashbacks, the two reminisce about the case and their uncomfortable, unpursued relationship. She is married.

Back and forth, we effortlessly jump through time. There’s never any need to inform us where or when we are, we intuitively know. The outstanding makeup jobs feel so natural that the actors don’t have to work very hard to pull off their roles at either end of a quarter century. Though I will say, the costuming and an overall better sense of time for the portion of the film set in 1974 would be welcome. The difference between the two eras is generally boiled down to not having a cell phone back then.

Makeup jobs and costuming aside, the actors turn in fine work. Our two leads are excellent. Still, they’re outdone by Guillermo Francella who plays Esposito’s almost constantly drunk partner Sandoval. He manages to give the movie both wisdom and comic relief. When doing either he’s as brilliant as he is at the other. It’s a terrific performance.

Most of the movie plays like a mixture between a whodunit murder mystery mixed with a story of a love affair that never actually happened. Ostensibly, the reason is those are the two subjects on which Esposito seems hellbent on writing about. What elevates this from being a routine movie of either genre is first how the two topics are woven together. Second, and more importantly, it’s where our tale ends. The finale involves two people, Esposito and one other I won’t reveal. Actually, there is a third party involved but that person, though an integral part of the final scene, has no say so in the matter.

That last scene creates one of those ambiguous endings I’m such a fan of. The question here: did either person do the right thing? Another question that begs to be asked is what would you have done? In discussing those, more questions may arise. The case that has haunted Esposito for 25 years, now haunts us.

MY SCORE: 8.5/10

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