Ten Word or Less Review: Top notch stuff. Seek it out and see it.
Look on the IMDB page for this film and you’ll see it classified as Drama/Mystery/Romance. Movies have a hard enough time getting one genre right much less three, but Secret balances these multiple genres with an incredibly skilled touch, accomplishing a gripping story which never feels shallow, predictable or course. It’s a hard-hitting murder mystery that knows how to turn the screws, as well as a story of unrequited romance that feels well honed and true to heart.
Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin), is a retired Argentinian detective. Free of the work a day world Benjamin lingers on a troublesome case from 20 years in his past, the brutal rape and murder of Liliana Coloto, a beautiful newlywed who was killed in her own home after her husband went to work. As he attempts to write a book about the events he drugges up feelings long buried and explores new thoughts and ideas pretaining to the case. Secret juxtaposes Benjamin’s quiet life of now, unmarried, no kids, too much time, with his tumultuous existence of then, trying to solve a perplexing murder, dealing with his drunken best friend and co-worker, falling for a superior he feels unworthy of.
These dueling timelines and story arcs never feel at odds with one another or tonally out of whack. Each part of its complex story compliments the other in odd and unpredictable ways. Director/Writer Juan Jose Campanella shows great skill here with complex structure and pacing. Not only emotionally winding and complex it also requires a gutsy storyteller and Campanella doesn’t duck away from the harder parts of his narrative. When Esposito walks in on Liliana’s battered body, the detective’s ground in cynicism fades away as he’s struck devistated with horror at the heinousness of the crime . It’s the kind of powerful scene too many American flicks shy away from.
The cast of actors mine the intimidating screenplay for everything that it’s worth and in addition are saddled with the trick of playing their characters at two very different ages. Darin convincingly portrays Esposito as a brash young man and an older, lost soul whose watched opportunities pass him by. We see him struggle then and now with his relationship to Irene (Soledad Villamil), a work place superior who sets him on his side with unrequited desire. Past or present, Darin injects such an aching sense of repression towards this woman he’s so in love with that we can’t stand to see him not act. Romance seems superfilous and ill-timed in most murder oriented mysteries, here it serves as the emotional backbone for the entire story and it has a fantastic payoff.
The Secret in their Eyes leaves a deep impression on the viewer. In an age of disposable movies where a real emotion is nearly impossible to find, Campanella’s effort achieves near greatness. For a director who’s spent most of his career confined to television (Law & Order: SVU, House, Strangers With Candy!) he’s turned in a remarkable cinematic effort that would make any master helmer a wee bit jealous.