El Secreto de Sus Ojos was the very deserving winner of the 2010 Academy Award for best Foreign Film. (I have to admit it is the only one of those nominated that I have seen so far, so stay tuned.) It is both an absorbing crime thriller and a heartbreaking love story. Set in Buenos Aires, in the years between 1975 and 1999, the central character Benjamín Espósito is played by Ricardo Darín who reminds me of a Latin Alan Rickman, and I LOVE Alan Rickman. Darín is the same kind of sensitive, sensual actor.
The film begins with Espósito, a retired Federal Justice Agent, deciding to write a book about an unresolved case that has become a life-long obsession. In flashback we meet him on the day that his life changed. He is a bureaucrat who works very hard at not working, but when he is reluctantly sent to the site of a gruesome crime, he is shocked to see the lifeless body of a young woman who was raped and murdered. This sight shakes him out of his complacency, and he becomes passionately engaged in a search for the killer and justice for the dead woman’s loving husband. He is aided in this quest by his lovable drunken assistant, Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella).
At the same time a woman comes into his life — another life-long obsession. Irene Menéndez Hastings (Soledad Villamil) is a beautiful, intelligent judge who he falls instantly in love with but hasn’t the nerve to follow through. Their relationship simmers under the surface of the crime investigation as they work side-by-side, and his decision to write the book brings them together again.
The film adaptation was written, directed, edited and produced by Juan José Campanella with whom Ricardo Darín has made three films. It is a very good pairing. The script is intelligent, with great twists and turns, wonderful dialogue, funny and sad moments, and serious questions about morality and ethics. The camerawork is also worth noting, especially one shot that stood out for me where we begin high over a stadium and zoom in to Benjamín’s face. [VFX but stunning nonetheless.]
What the movie is about ultimately is love: Esposito’s love of Irene and hers for him, the widower’s undying love for his murdered wife, dear Pablo’s love for his friend Esposito, and even the perverse obsessive love that was the impetus for the horrible crime. How each of them expresses their love ultimately shapes their life. It is a brilliant film worth seeing if you can in a theater. If not, grab it when it comes out on DVD. I’m sure I will want to watch it again; it’s that good.