The Secret in Their Eyes

(El secreto de sus ojos)
(Argentine, 2009, 129 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
In Spanish
CAST Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Pablo Rago
Classification: Unclassified, Membership Required
Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Canadian art house distributor Mongrel Media


Juan José Campanella’s adaptation of Eduardo Sacheri’s novel winds back through the past to unravel a brutal sex crime, in the process taking a good, hard look at the legal system.

Campanella (who also wrote the screenplay) frames the story in flashbacks, as a retired government lawyer reworks a book about a case that still bothers him, 25 years after the rape and murder of a beautiful young bride. Benjamin (Ricardo Darin) takes his manuscript to Irene (Soledad Villamil), who is now a judge, but who was his boss back then. She is reluctant to revisit those days for reasons both personal and political...

At first the case is closed too soon by a judge more mindful of crime stats than justice, while the key suspect hovers just beyond reach. It is the commitment of the victim’s widower that inspires Benjamin, when he happens to bump into him a year later, staking out a commuter station as he says he does every morning, waiting and praying for the time when the murderer crosses his path. The young lawyer is struck not just by this man’s anger, but by his devotion to the memory of his wife. He wonders if the system doesn’t owe him more, and in convincing Irene that it does he opens her eyes to his own unspoken ardor.

Campanella lays it out carefully and patiently, and mostly the performances are so good, and the writing is strong enough, that the movie commands our attention. It draws you in and envelopes you in the dynamics of the characters.

A Hollywood remake is currently in the works, with Billy Ray directing Chiwetel Ejiofor and Gwyneth Paltrow.

"The wonder is that the film balances its many genres, from the thorns of murder to the bloom of romance to the thickets of politics, with such easy grace. 4/4"—Rick Groen, Globe and Mail

"This beautiful film, directed with subtlety and grace by Juan José Campanella, really is about moving from fear to love."—Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

"Secret is bound to linger in the memory for years."—Betsy Sharkey, LA Times