I have a confession to make: foreign films are not usually my bag. Call me lazy, but subtitles always seem like so much work, ya know? However, I am here to tell you that Juan Jose Campanella’s The Secret in Their Eyes is totally worth wearing your glasses for.
The film, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film in March, starts out as if in dream, which is fitting, given that one of the main themes of this moving yet surprisingly amusing thriller/love story centres around memory. Specifically, the things you can’t, or don’t want to, forget. Retired criminal court investigator Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) has one case that he cannot let go of – a case involving a young woman who was brutally raped and murdered 25 years earlier, leaving behind her husband Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago), a man Esposito describes as being “frozen in time” by grief. In an effort to make sense of this tragic event and his own lost/unrequited love (his seemingly untouchable boss in the courts, Irene, played by Soledad Villamil), Esposito decides to transform his memories into a novel.
The plot, told mainly through flashbacks, has its twists and turns, culminating in a truly surprising ending (others may have seen it coming, but I happen to be blonde, so there you go). Still, what is more intriguing is the ways in which the lives of the main characters are interwoven. In fact, towards the end of the film, Morales makes a statement about Esposito’s admittedly slightly over-the-top obsession with the case, saying “this is my life, not yours.” Morales has a point, but it doesn’t change the fact that the two men’s lives are inextricably linked.
In any event, it’s exactly those kinds of obsessions – or if you want to think positively, those passions – that shape the lives of these characters, including the bad guy, for better and for worse. Indeed, the complex nature of passion, memory, justice and love, is summed up by each of the main characters at various junctures in the film via the simple and witty phrase “it’s complicated.”
Esposito’s trip down memory lane is visually interesting as well – the slightly off-kilter, occasionally shaky camera-work is in keeping with the unstable nature of memory and truth. After all, staring back into the rear-view mirror for too long can prevent you from keeping your eyes on the road ahead. But as the title of the film suggests, it’s in those half-glimpsed snapshots of memory that you can see the truth, and/or the secrets, in someone’s eyes.
Word on the street is that this film has great cross-over appeal to mainstream, English-speaking audiences. Since I usually put myself in that category (have you seen Hot Tub Time Machine yet? It’s hilarious!), I’d say that expectation is justified. So, don’t let those subtitles scare you – go see this flick now.
The Secret In Their Eyes opens today, April 23, in Vancouver and Toronto. Check local listings for showtimes.