Not for the faint of heart, the Oscar winning film The Secret in Their Eyes avoids everything Hollywood to bring a gripping, melancholic and powerfully moving film. The Argentinean film stars Ricardo Darin as Benjamin Esposito, a man investigating the brutal rape and murder of a young beautiful woman with the help of his alcoholic assistant Ricardo Morales, (Pablo Rago) and the beautiful woman he secretly pines over Irene (Soledad Villamil). This traditional crime solving set up dissolves quickly, moving unpredictably through its plot whilst keeping the focus firmly fixed on the emotional and moral dilemmas the characters face.
Many viewers may find the film unsettling, and it certainly packs as punch. This is not only due to the constantly surprising narrative and occasional brief brutal violence, but also to the mood set by the film. There is an understated grief, accompanied with an anger that underscores the film never letting the audience become complacent. Without a predictable or traditional story arch the movie could have tried patience of audiences, but an extremely clever script by Juan Jose Campanella brings a smooth cohesion to a disjointed plot. The non-linear structure of the film is particularly handled well.
At the centre of this noir-esque drama, is a romance between Irene and Esposito which is utterly believable and moving, due to the two leads who cover decades in their roles thanks to some fantastic aging makeup. In particular Soledad Villamil gives a truly outstanding performance with charisma, heart ache and grace, though there is not a weak link in the cast.
Technical aspects are similarly expertly done, with seamless editing between different time periods, and between fantasy and reality. Director Juan Jose Campanella uses restraint effectively, never becoming showy but remaining true to the tone of the film, making a film that’s often thrilling but always emotionally engaging. The films greatest strength is in the portrait it paints of these characters and the inner dilemmas they face, and it is this that will linger with the audience long after they leave the cinema.