Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Secret In Their Eyes (2009) Film Review
The Secret In Their Eyes
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
For those who lament the fact that they don't make films like they used to, here's some good news, Juan José Campanella does - and his latest is old-fashioned in all the best senses of the phrase. This is a strong story, encompassing romance, thriller aspects, comedy and even political intrigue, zipping back and forward in time but always carrying you with it to a conclusion that is thoroughly satisfying on all counts. I first caught this film out at San Sebastian last October, cheered it on to Oscar glory and I can still say that I haven't seen a film I've enjoyed more since (no, not even Toy Story 3).
It stars Ricardo Darin, whose crumpled charm and ability to convey a world-weariness still tinged with optimism are second to none. He is Benjamin, an Argentine court employee who, with time on his hands granted by retirement, has decided to write a book about a case that he can't shake from his mind. Twenty-five years previously, in the Seventies, a young woman was brutally raped and murdered. Yet, in many ways it is not the crime itself which holds the true interest for Benjamin, but the passionate response of the dead woman's husband Ricardo (Pablo Rago) to seeing her killer brought to justice. His love for his lost spouse burns as brightly as Benjamin's unrequited passion for his boss Irene (Soledad Villamil), who despite her glances in his direction seems out of reach.
What follows is the story of the hunt for the murderer, beginning in the past and concluding in the present. Running deftly alongside it is the thoroughly believable will-they/won't they? romance between Benjamin and Irene and a fair dollop of political commentary about corruption in Argentina in the Seventies.
Campanella's experience of working on tight TV dramas such as Law And Order: SVU is put to good use, with the crime and thriller aspects of the plot levened by a rich vein of humour, largely presented through Benjamin's subordinate - in more ways than one - colleague Pablo (Guillermo Francella). Much of the joy of this film is found in Campanella's ability to continually change tack. Despite the shifting periods and the fact that he never uses obvious techniques, such as dates on newspapers or title cards, we always know exactly where we are thanks to clever evocation of time and place. His ability to move from comedy to tragedy in little more than a beat, meanwhile, makes for a gripping plot and also helps his characters and situations feel utterly believable. Crucially, we quickly come to care about all of these people and their secrets.
It is not just in the character and scripting departments that Campanella excels, however, he also manages the impressive feat of showing both restraint and flair in terms of visuals. His measured approach to scene composition allows the actors - all superb - to shine at their best, while a sequence in which he takes his camera swooping down into a soccer stadium is nothing short of exhilarating.
At one point Pablo asks Benjamin: "What's your passion?" If yours is great filmmaking, don't miss this, you're in for the treat of the year.Reviewed on: 30 Jun 2010
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