Editor, U.S.; Los Angeles, California (@filmbenjamin)
It's hard nowadays to talk about Argentine filmmaker, Juan Jose Campanella's latest feature without discussing its Oscar win for best foreign language film. How that reflects on the film and any possible positives it could have on the relatively healthy Argentine film industry could be interesting to watch unfold. As a win, albeit something of a surprise, it is a safe win, a rather conservative choice compared to the other nominees. This extends quite easily to the film itself, a top of the line production with a lot of Argentina's heavy hitters swinging seemingly perfect scores; the film is adept on just about every level, but not really apt at providing anything beyond a fairly standard drama.

THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES opens in literally hazy fragments, memories draped in an uncertain nostalgia, punctuated by some in-camera and post trickery that lends to a syrupy, lofty farewell at a train station. We suddenly jump to a violent rape involving a young woman and then bounce onto the image of a man alone, sitting at his dining table, writing, re-writing, pages crumpled, memories lost, scarred, left unsatisfied. The man is Benjamin Esposito (Richardo Darin), a recently retired criminal court investigator; a man hollowed, and searching for truth, truth in the past for now, this moment, for this lifetime. He begins this search with his writing, a novel based on events from 25 years prior; a brutal rape/murder of a young school teacher, and the arrival of a beautiful young judge (Soledad Villamil) at his offices start off what is to become key events in Esposito's life. Perhaps even the defining events in his life.
The film is riddled with hard boiled allusions and comical detective aspirations, and most of the characters show an acerbic wit for banter (perhaps, ultimately a mask for their denial of an increasingly polarized nation) but early on, Campanlla shies away from most noir and thriller trappings the story could call for, and instead falls into a much more intimate tale on the value and meaning of one's memories and one's life worth. When needed, he conjures forth those thriller tropes though, most notably in a sequence extremely reminiscent of the stadium scene in Kurosawa's STRAY DOG.
But as a whole THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES is a film that milks its tension from the quiet moments, of things left unsaid, of unrequited love, of a man alone, reminiscing; of who he thought people were and the inevitable truths that come out. 
It doesn't seem to be an overly political film, though the bulk of the story taking place in 1970s Argentina is important to who and how these people were, and what kind of stance they took during the midst of wide spread labor strife and government upheaval.
In these ways the film comes across as a very sentimental procedural. Though again, this is only a mask... Characters busy themselves with work, obsessing and denying, side stepping life in a way that they may only realize decades later. Like I said It's all finely tuned if somewhat tedious, and trite in the end. As a viewing experience it left me mostly indifferent,. But that's not to say the film won't find an international audience, because it most certainly will. The question that remains however, is how long lasting the impression will be.

Sony Classics Pictures releases THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES limited in North America, April 16th (it also opens in Mexico this day too). This certainly means NYC/LA, and more markets down the line (For instance my old stomping ground, the Loft cinema, in Tucson, Arizona gets it June 11th). Already released in Sweden and Norway in late March, further dates for Greece, Finland, Denmark, France, Italy and New Zealand follow from late April to early June.
Being released in Argentina last August, it would seem that the film has already been released on DVD, but I cannot find any solid info, so if any Argentine or South American readers can chime in, it'd be much appreciated.    

The Secret in Their Eyes

  • Juan José Campanella
  • Eduardo Sacheri
  • Juan José Campanella
  • Eduardo Sacheri (novel)
  • Soledad Villamil
  • Ricardo Darín
  • Carla Quevedo
  • Pablo Rago
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Juan José CampanellaEduardo SacheriSoledad VillamilRicardo DarínCarla QuevedoPablo RagoDramaMysteryThriller

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