Directed By: Juan Jose Campanella
Written By: Eduardo Sacheri; Juan Jose Campanella
Ricardo Darin – Benjamin Esposito
Soledad Villamil – Irene Hastings
Pablo Rago – Ricardo Morales
Javier Godino – Isidoro Gomez
Guillermo Francella – Pablo Sandoval
Mariano Argento – Romano
Carla Quevedo – Liliana Coloto
Language: Spanish Genre: Crime Thriller
To see The Secret in Their Eyes as only a crime thriller would be limiting and hence it would be hard to justify the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. To say it was about loss, regret, guilt and most definitely love would come closer to the truth.
The film starts off with a man writing out a story. He is visualising his scene with painstaking detail. It is an ordinary breakfast vividly described because it is the last breakfast Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago) and Liliana Coloto (Carla Quevedo) shared before she was found raped and murdered. And he is unable to write it.
We then realise, the writer is Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin), a retired investigator and that this was a cold case that stayed with him at the end of his career. The irony is, he is trying to play the omniscient narrator of events that he is not entirely sure how they unfolded. Plus, it is a series of events in which he played a decisive role, so there is no objectivity despite the distance in time.
He approaches the judge who worked on the case with him, Irene Hastings (Soledad Villamil) to discuss his doubts, the subtle melancholia (writers are very lonely people) and his troubles writing. She advises him to start either with the memory he recalls most vividly, since this was 20 years ago or to start at the very beginning.
Largely, the film comes to us in flashbacks and there is a hint of something more than a brutal homicide that drew Esposito to write about that case, especially when we see that the ‘vivid memory’ for him was not Lilana Coloto’s brutalised body but meeting Irene Hastings for the first time. So the film does talk about how memories are much more vivid because we recall minute details as compared to the present, that seems rather plain. The colour palette of sequences in the past are brighter, pointing to the vividness of the memory.
The beauty of the film is that it does not let you dwell on those moments of shock, despair, revulsion because life is made of varied moments so that you could be having a terribly boring day and then walk into a disturbing homicide. And just when it seems that your whole day is marred by that moment, you meet that person you have a soft corner for and everything darker gets blunted.
The film is not a whodunit. Esposito, Sandoval and Hastings know the murderer and have the confession. It is a question of justice being meted out. It is about regret because Esposito revisits this ‘event’ in his life because he knows what Morales did to keep his wife’s memory alive and to see she received justice. But he, on the other hand gave up on the woman he loved, too easily.
And if the film is about the unpredictability of life, then the penultimate moment of the film will throw you off because of what it reveals about the human psyche.