The Secret in Their Eyes: A Movie Review
When I finished watching this 2009 film I said to myself: Yes! Now that is how a master makes a movie. Let me get this gushing praise for the film out of the way: I loved everything about this movie!
Okay, let's get down to business.
This is a 2009 Argentine film, directed, produced, and edited by Juan Jose Campanella and written by Eduardo Sacheri and Campanella.
Now, I must confess that I do not know who any of these people are. Wikipedia is helping us out with that, as a matter of fact. But my ignorance does not alter the fact that this movie is a masterpiece.
Why do I say that?
First of all, let us begin as is my custom.
This film is a crime drama. This is not a mystery, suspense film, or thriller, as I usually define those terms. This film is not, in my opinion, a suspense work because the hero does not have to do any specific thing within a specific time-window to prevent the sky from falling and all that good stuff.
This film is not a thriller, as I understand the term because the events presented by the film are not designed to crackle with what I like to call momentous immediacy. Films like the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons are what I would call "thrillers," because the stakes are so high, so catastrophic, so earth-shattering, if you're familiar with the plots of those films based on Dan Brown novels.
In thrillers every chase scene---whether on foot or by car---and every fistfight and every gunfight is linked to every other one; and the whole thing builds to a climax of astronomical implications and so on and so forth. The Secret in Their Eyes is not a thriller.
The Secret in Their Eyes is not really a mystery. That is to say that this film does not fit into the category of a protracted whodunit. The killer is identified rather quickly; that is not the point of the movie. It is the eyes that give the whole thing away; and that is the point of the whole movie.
As I said, the whole thing is in the eyes. This is a very aptly titled film. It is the eyes that identifies the killer. It is the eyes of the widower, filled with unquenchable love that inspires the investigator to pursue the case. It is the eyes of that widower, twenty-five years later that will give viewers one of the most shocking resolutions they have ever seen.
I know that term, 'shocking,' is overused. But this is not one of those times. In any case, it is the eyes that contain such longing among two of the characters in this film---the main investigator on the case, a man called Esposito and his boss; the phrase "two ships passing in the night," doesn't quite capture it...
But let's slow down. As usual, we're getting ahead of ourselves.
This story is told in two time phases. Twenty-five years ago, a prosecutorial court investigator called Esposito and his "team" investigated the rape-homicide of a young woman, a newly wed.
The story moves along on two time tracks: the present and twenty-five years ago.
Perspective of Esposito
Today, in the present, the retired investigator is lollygagging about and trying to write a novel about the case, twenty-five years ago, which has haunted him so all these years.
The Case Twenty-Five Years Ago
Esposito quickly identifies the killer because of the existence of several pictures of the young woman, in different situations, and in different locations. In each of them there is a young man who is seen looking at her hungrily, with a sick longing, frankly. His name is Isidoro Gomez.
I'm not giving anything away because, as I said before, an extended whodunit is not the point of this movie. The eyes of the killer.
One of the things the widower does to occupy himself is to sit at a certain bus station, waiting for the killer to return. Everyday, after he finishes his work for the bank, he sits at various bus and train stations, waiting for the killer to return. Watchful eyes...for what? Justice? Revenge? Civic duty?
A lot of time goes by before Esposito finds Isidoro Gomez, the killer. After he raped and killed the young bride, he apparently "went underground," as it were, aided no doubt, by his sordid criminal cohorts.
Esposito tries to explain to his boss why he is so driven to successfully bring that case to resolution and give justice to the widower. Esposito says that he has never seen such love in one person for another. Not ever in all his life.
Perhaps, then, we really should call this film a melodrama. But that's nitpicking. In any case, we can call the widower's eyes in this mode, the eyes of love.
Then there is the eye-play between Esposito and his boss, a younger woman from a wealthier, more privileged, more politically connected background. The chemistry is great between those two actors; in fact, it gave me a kind of Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall kind of vibe.
But in any case, to get back to their eye-play, it is easy to see that both of them---Esposito more obviously---are carrying around inexpressible longing. IT is inexpressible because the time is not right, or doesn't seem to be right. She is getting married....
Its kind of hard to put in words for a movie review. But it seems that her eyes are doing the "If anybody knows of any reason why these two people should not be joined" thing days and weeks and months before her marriage to another man; and she is flashing that question, through her eyes, to Esposito.
Esposito wants her so bad he can't stand it, of course. He "hears" the question but... but... but...
What I mean to say is that their situation is suffused with angst. So, you have this dynamic going on, which would be an interesting story in itself, without the crime.
The eyes of yearning.
The film moves back and forth easily and coherently between the present and twenty-five years ago. The director of this film is obviously a master storyteller, so the effect is never jarring or even noticeable.
What happens to the killer, Isidoro Gomez?
I don't want to give too much away. I want you to watch this movie. Its an "indie" film. Did I mention that? Well it is---an indie film.
He is captured, arrested, sent to prison, and then released. It seems that he has skills that another branch of the government finds useful...
But let's not get too distracted with that.
You may find yourself thinking that Gomez gets away with it. He does not.
True, he does not suffer in a state-prescribed way, but he does not get away with his crimes. Justice does catch up with him.
The way that justice catches up with him is what is so shocking.
You may think you know what it is; but I assure you, you do not!
The film is in Spanish with English subtitles. Following what is going on should not be a problem. The film is gorgeous from a cinematographic point of view---almost stylish, you might say.
Thank you so much for reading!