This is a special case because the movie won the Oscar for best foreign language film, however it wasn’t released after the event. I saw the movie in Houston and a month later in Mexico City. The story is basically a thriller. The film starts in Buenos Aires in 1974, when a criminal court investigator, Benjamin Espósito (Ricardo Darín, we have seen him in some other great films like “The Son of the Bride” and Nine Queens”), arrives at a crime scene with a colleague, and sees the naked corpse of a beautiful young woman. She has been raped, beaten, and murdered. Not only does he relentlessly pursue the killer; he becomes close to the woman’s husband, a bank employee named Morales (Pablo Rago), who remains obsessed with his dead wife for the rest of his life.
Benjamin Espósito has a love of his own, which he’s too shy to act on. A few scenes approach the melodramatic kitsch like a telenovela. The director José Campanella will then take us into a story of great depth and intrigue. “The Secret in Their Eyes” is a fine, complex film, whose corners and passageways will be discussed by moviegoers afterward.
The movie opens in 2000. It is twenty-five years after the murder, and the investigator, retired yet still fascinated by the case, Esposito is assembling his recollections of it. Campanella is seriously teasing us: Espósito may be dissatisfied with his writings, but what he depicts in these first-draft attempts actually happened (we see the scenes again later, in their proper place in the story). Back in 1974, Espósito chases the killer with the help of his partner, Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella), and their cautious superior, Irene Menéndez Hastings (Soledad Villamil), a judge’s assistant educated in the United States. Espósito is an intelligent man, but he’s not a lawyer, and the difference between them in income and status stops him from openly declaring his love for her, which she keeps hinting that she wants. Instead, he worries about Sandoval, an alcoholic genius who in his drinking acts pulls together the clues that lead to the identity and the arrest of the murderer. Sandoval is a lovable mess, who, despite his gifts, can’t survive the chaos and the repression of Buenos Aires.
The murderer is a guy named Gomez (Javier Godino), and what follows his capture is altogether startling. When Benjamín Espósito, interrogates him, doesn’t get anywhere, Irene takes over. She turns the questioning into a sexual duel, taunting Gomez’s manhood, her words more wounding and more effective than a beating. Irene plays a sarcastic bitch in order to provoke Gomez’s rage, and enjoys a triumph that pushes feminism beyond a critique of men, beyond ironic mockery.
Gomez is freed by one of the judges and becomes a member for the new fascist regime. He’s a serious threat to Espósito and a provocation to Morales, the dead woman’s husband, which explaind some of the corruption that existed within the system. More than the political background, the story focuses on the main players, who are woven together in an increasingly intricate structure. The movie is a great story that combines other genres besides the thriller, like the romantic melodrama. It has something for everyone.