Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

15 July 2010

Sus Ojos

Yesterday I continued my streak of screening movies by myself in empty theatres when my friend Sean ditched me and I ended up seeing Juan José Campanella's The Secret in Their Eyes by myself.

I had assumed that the title meant that the movie was going to be a story about lost childhood. I think I was imagining Secretos del Corazón or La Bestia nel Cuore or something like that. But no. The Secret in Their Eyes is not even really that similar to Campanella's other big film, Son of the Bride (which I also liked). If The Secret in Their Eyes is like any recent film, it is comparable to Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others.

The Secret in Their Eyes is a mystery, a kind of memory-drama where the protagonist tries to piece together the events that happened to him many years previous. The whole thing is a fascinating puzzle and while I couldn't always decide if I thought I had figured something out, the narrative is told in such a way that it never feels manipulative, as if the filmmaker is deliberately keeping things from the audience. Instead, we remember as the protagonist remembers. We learn as he pieces things together; we solve puzzles as he solves them. The end of this film is so surprising, so well done, and so earned, that right before the big reveal I was positive the reveal was going to be something else altogether.

Argentinian superstar Ricardo Darín (Nine Queens, The Aura, Son of the Bride) plays the lead. Darín is like the Argentinian George Clooney, so I can't really comment on his acting. He is very good, but it's a movie-star part, you know? My favorite performances in the film are Pablo Rago, who plays the husband of the murdered woman, and Guillermo Francella, who is outstanding as Darín's alcoholic investigative partner. Soledad Villamil is also excellent as Darín's love interest. There is a fantastic interrogation scene with Darín and Villamil where she just stuns you.

You will not want to miss this picture. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Picture this year (2010), so it won't be eligible for any other awards next year, but it won the award for a reason. This is a great movie.