The Secret In Their Eyes

The Secret In Their Eyes, which currently holds the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, had a limited UK theatrical release and, along with many if not most films from Latin America, failed to reach a particularly substantial audience. However, its recent release on DVD and Blu-Ray is all set to counteract this unfortunate state of affairs, and now this cracking film is available to all and sundry. There hasn’t been a crime thriller to match it for years.

Retired federal agent Benjamin Esposito (Darín) is trying, and failing, to write a novel. It shouldn’t be that hard – the plot, an unsolved murder case which has haunted him for half his life, has already written itself – but he can’t work out where to start. Worse still, his meetings with ex-boss Irene (Villamil) only serve to remind him that he never managed to find out how the story ended – the hero is unfulfilled, the girl got away and the villain was never brought to justice. Esposito is swiftly drawn back into the tangled skein of shadows and corruption which cheated him of his target twenty-five years previously, and he begins to realise that rather more than a decent novel is riding on his success…

If The Secret In Their Eyes were an American film, there would have been many more explosions and probably some men in vests. If it were English, it would have been called Best Served Cold and been set in Whitechapel. Either way, it would have been another tedious and forgettable police drama. This, at the risk of stereotyping, is why the production’s Latin emotion is so crucial to how well it worked. Throughout the film, key moments of detection rest on the most outrageous coincidences and intuitive leaps – plot points which would have no place at all in a film which wasn’t ever so slightly tinged with melodrama.

Esposito’s story makes a perfect novel because the device of his autobiographical tale allows for artificially perfect pacing and narrative ingenuity – no character has the luxury of being sidelined, everyone has a small but vital part to play. Razor-sharp and well-translated dialogue paired with intensely memorable performances from Darín, Villamil, Pablo Rago and veteran Argentine comedian Guillermo Francella all heighten the atmosphere until the plot is wound so tight you feel it’s about to snap. Happily, that’s the one thing it never does. Somehow, the combination of slightly unbelievable cop drama (good) and archetypal frustrated romance (better) combine to make something which, with a little suspension of disbelief, is infinitely better than either. This film is intoxicating.

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