The Secret in Their Eyes: Love and Death and Not Making Out
dir. Juan José Campanella
I know I’m not entitled to watch strangers—even movie characters—consummate their unrequited love feelings, and I’m not saying whether or not the characters in this movie do, in fact, consummate their unrequited love feelings (because that would be a spoiler), but The Secret in Their Eyes contains an awful lot of near-consummation of unrequited love feelings, which are instead stymied by woeful practicality or hidden behind coyly closed doors. Annoying, is all I’m saying. JUST MAKE OUT, is all I’m saying. Anyway.
Winner of this year’s Academy Award for best foreign language film, Argentine procedural The Secret in Their Eyes is a murder mystery, kind of, and a love story, kind of—an elegant and captivating, if less than thrilling, thriller. A federal investigator, Benjamín Esposito (Ricardo Darín,; so blue-eyed and craggily handsome that it’s literally a crime in Argentina not to make out with him)—now retired, old, and gray—returns to a rape/murder case that has haunted him for 25 years. Hoping to find some peace (and possibly even a dash of justice!), he revisits the gruesome, frustrating, tragic events of 1974, which unfold for our eyes in simultaneous flashback. Teamed up with a Cornell-educated attorney named Irene (unrequited love feelings coming soon!), Benjamín butts heads with dickhead judges and corrupt colleagues, and follows his nose to a killer, only to have it all crumble away beneath him. Meanwhile, present-day Benjamín revisits the places and the people that crept under his skin so many years before, exploring the fluidity of his own memories with humor and melancholy.
The Secret in Their Eyes is a story about emptiness: the emptiness of death, the emptiness of life after death, of a life without love, of a life imprisoned. “How can someone live an empty life? How do you live a life full of nothing?” Benjamin asks Irene, the past hanging heavy in the air between them. Then they don’t make out. Sigh. Citizen’s arrest!!! How do you say “citizen’s arrest” in Spanish!?