The Secret in Their Eyes
2009, R, 127 min. Directed by Juan José Campanella. Starring Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Pablo Rago, Javier Godino, Guillermo Francella, Carla Quevedo, Rudy Romano.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 14, 2010
Winner of the Best Foreign Language Film award at this year’s Oscars, this Argentine film is a reflective mystery story. Benjamín (Darín), a retired court investigator, is trying to write a novel about an old case of his that was never resolved to his satisfaction. More than two decades ago, a woman was brutally raped and murdered, and although suspects were found, the case against them was thrown out on technical grounds. However, Benjamín always suspected someone else entirely, a young man whose gaze at the woman in a group photograph aroused his suspicion. The man could never be found. For help, he returns to his old office and bounces his thoughts off Irene (Villamil), whom he has always loved despite never acting on those feelings. The past and the present begin to merge as pieces of the case are reinvestigated and aspects of it reflect situations in Benjamín’s own life. If it sounds like an episode of Cold Case, that’s not far from the truth, and it’s curious that director Campanella, who made such a splash early in his career with the hard-edged The Boy Who Cried Bitch, has spent much of the last couple of decades directing episodic television in Hollywood. The Secret in Their Eyes is an uneven story that is alternately fascinating and dull. At times, it resembles a police procedural as Benjamín pursues the long-cold killer’s trail and the potential uncovering of the mystery pulls the viewer along. The final revelations are, ultimately, shocking. Campanella’s script (which is adapted from a novel by Eduardo Sacheri) bogs down, however, when the focus of the story is on Benjamín, who is dogged by his memories and his inability to make a play for Irene. The character is just too reserved to arouse passions in either Irene or the viewers. Obviously, though, the Academy voters disagreed with me and were aroused enough to bestow The Secret of Their Eyes its highest honor.