The Secret in Their Eyes, romantic thriller, rated R, in Spanish with subtitles, Regal DeVargas, 3.5 chiles In many ways, Juan José Campanella’s film The Secret in Their Eyes is the story of two men emotionally tied together by a dead woman. The movie picked up the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of 2009, and its strength lies in its ability to succeed on two levels: as a love story and as a suspense thriller. But it has its share of flaws too, including a couple of hokey scenes that seem to have been plucked out of American TV crime dramas — no surprise, since Campanella’s résumé includes directing a number of such programs.
But overall, the direction and acting cannot be faulted. It’s a film in which the eyes do a lot of the talking, and one in which the main actors successfully portray versions of their characters that are more than 20 years apart as the film moves back and forth from the mid-1970s to 2000. The motivations of the two lead characters — Benjamín Esposito (Ricardo Darín) and Irene Menéndez Hastings (Soledad Villamil) — are never in doubt as both actively pursue their goals: justice and love.
The story concerns Argentina in 1974 — just before the so-called “Dirty War” enveloped the nation in death and disappearances — when justice was not easy to attain. Esposito is an honest cop (called a chief justice) in a dishonest racket. Hastings — a high-bred beauty — is his superior officer. They work for the government, solving crimes in between flirting, drinking, and filing ever-mounting piles of paperwork.
Their routine quickly changes after Esposito is assigned to a rape/murder case. Upon seeing the broken, bruised body of the victim, Esposito decides that he wants to punish the killer. But he is baffled as his bosses (aside from Hastings), subordinates,