Awarded an Oscar for the 2010 Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos) is an Argentinean crime thriller that brings murder, romance and drama together in a rich plot on human nature. With an intricate plot, the movie brings out the darkest end to a criminal through the persistent disposition of a man who finds peace through personal justice.
The movie is set in contemporary Argentina with a retired legal counselor, Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) writing a novel to find closure from a twenty-five-year-old closed case, the rape and murder of Liliana Colotto. Touched by the horrors of the crime scene and the devotion of Liliana’s husband, Ricardo Morales, Esposito and his assistant, Pablo Sandoval, track down the identity of the murderer while skimming through old pictures of Liliana during her school days. Isidoro Gomez was a man obsessed with Liliana and several pictures of him staring at Liliana give the two counselors reason to track him down and find proof of the murder. Eventually, Gomez is put into jail and Morales is promised that the killer will spend his life in prison by Esposito, soon to find that the skewed justice system released Gomez in return for some favors. In trying to find closure to the Morales case, Esposito discovers a dark secret that becomes a key to resolving his troubled mind.
The time of the Morales case was in the early 70’s in Argentina, a time of military dictatorship and turmoil. Following the Revolucion Argentina, a series of military-appointed presidents and military coup d’états succeeded and it was during this period that injustice was done to Morales with the release of Isidoro Gomez from prison based on ill-natured feelings against Esposito by a fellow legal counselor. This context of the crime leaves way for a twisted development of the plot and an even more surprising ending.
The solving of the crime is based on two analyses of human nature, one being that the nature of individuals, regardless of time and disguise, do not change. Gomez was caught after being on the run due to his affection for Argentinean soccer. Even while being chased by legal enforcement, he found the passion hard to suppress and this gave him away, leading to his capture in the middle of a soccer match. The persistence of Ricardo Morales led him to wait at the train station every day for a year in hopes that Gomez will one day return to his hometown. This persistence reveals the dark secret underlying his peace with the murder of his wife, the case that left Esposito disturbed for twenty five years.
The second analysis is that the eyes reveal more about human nature than anything else. Morales insisted that the eyes express more love than the body can show and Sandoval’s instinct and belief in the eyes led the two counselors to find the real murderer despite two suspects the police were chasing after. Based on photos of Liliana that Morales showed the two counselors, they felt a hunch about the man who kept staring at her in almost all of her pictures and this hunch alone made them pursue Gomez.
And then there is the romance factor. Esposito’s love for Irene Menendez Hastings, his direct superior, is left in the dark and is unresolved for twenty five years. The unsatisfactory closing of the Morales case, along with his leaving Buenos Aires for his safety and his reluctance in taking the opportunity to express his love, all combine to have two people live for twenty five long years without the satisfaction of a lover’s companionship. At the end of all this wasted time, Esposito and Irene look back at the past and find a way to make things work. On the other hand, Ricardo Morales devotes his life to his dead wife, Liliana, leading a life of silence, remoteness and loneliness. This dedication is in contrast to the love between Irene and Esposito, one that is also accompanied by persistence and grudge.
The tension throughout the movie with some preposterous turn of events creates a dark drama that tries to explain the many aspects of human nature. The disgust of rape and murder, the labyrinth that is crime-solving, the romance that underlies the main characters and the moments of light humor balance one another to create this intense story. All these factors combined make The Secret in Their Eyes one of the best movies in Latin American filmography.