The Secret in Their Eyes

Review by Clemmy Manzo @clemmymanzo

Directed by

Juan José Campanella

Starring

Pablo Rago Ricardo Darín Soledad Villamil

Anticipation.

Surprise winner of some big prizes during this year’s awards season. Expectations are high.

Enjoyment.

A big dollop of (sexual) tension, dashes of humour and a brilliant cast.

In Retrospect.

A stylish and intelligent Argentine offering – destined to become a world cinema classic.

Hardboiled thrills abound in this classy period noir from Argentine director Juan José Campanella.

“A man can change anything,” remarks Sandoval (Guillermo Francella) at a crucial juncture in The Secrets in Their Eyes, “his face, his home, his family, his girlfriend, his religion, his god. But there’s one thing he can’t change – he can’t change his passion.”

It’s this unwavering passion, along with memory, regret and justice, that is central to Juan José Campanella’s brilliant film. Based on Eduardo Sacheri’s novel ‘La Pregunta De Sus Ojos’, and featuring an excellent cast led by Ricardo Darín and Soledad Villamil, this is another sparkling jewel in modern Argentine cinema’s crown.

Campanella flits between past and present as retired Federal Justice Agent Benjamín Esposito (Darín) revisits the ghosts of his past. Bored and unsatisfied with how his life has turned out, he decides to write a novel about a murder case he investigated 25 years earlier, which has haunted him ever since.

The flashbacks are set in 1974 – a time of rising violence between rival political factions on the left and right – in the lead-up to Argentina’s bloodiest dictatorship. Although Campanella doesn’t focus on the dark demons of Argentina’s history, the period remains key to the story, focussing in on issues of impunity and retribution.

Esposito struggles with his novel, unsure where to start. “Start at the part you remember the most,” suggests Irene Hastings (Villamil), a long-time colleague. And so, he begins with her. We learn that he has loved her from the moment he met her, but has never had the guts to act upon his feelings. We learn that she loved him too, but was waiting for him to make the move. Rich with symbolism (doors opening and closing are particularly prominent), it’s a story of words unspoken, business unresolved, and looks with hidden meanings. Fittingly, it is a gaze that gives a secret away, and solves a murder case.

But the murder mystery isn’t the only jigsaw puzzle Esposito is trying to complete. He’s also scrabbling to fit together the missing pieces of his own life. It is a process that grips throughout, but by the time Campanella brings closure to Esposito’s painful soul-searching after 127 minutes, it has also become frustrating to watch for an audience for whom the solution appears blindingly obvious.

The Secret in Their Eyes is one of those films you will find yourself returning to again and again. Not only for its engrossing love story, drama and occasional comic moments (deriving from dialogue between Esposito and drunkard colleague Sandoval), but also for its beautiful and artistic cinematography courtesy of veteran DP Félix Monti.

Published 12 Aug 2010

Anticipation.

Surprise winner of some big prizes during this year’s awards season. Expectations are high.

Enjoyment.

A big dollop of (sexual) tension, dashes of humour and a brilliant cast.

In Retrospect.

A stylish and intelligent Argentine offering – destined to become a world cinema classic.

Read More

Secret in Their Eyes

By Adam White

Despite the best efforts of Chiwetel Ejiofor and Julia Roberts this remake of Juan José Campanella’s Oscar winner is DOA.

review

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design