Sometimes, certain directors can suck you in to watching anything. Sure, you probably haven’t heard of him, but Juan Jos Campanella is one of those directors for me.
I first saw his name attached to some episodes of my other favorite television show, but if you take a look at his filmography, that dude shows up everywhere, and every time I’ve watched a “Law and Order” episode and seen his name, I immediately perked up and paid attention to what I would otherwise ignore.
So, imagine my surprise to discover that one of his latest films was nominated for Best Foreign Language Oscar…and then won!
And I’m delighted to say that his directing chops are still awesome. At his best, he’s a mood director, using his camera like a paintbrush in order to show the viewer his world. An early sequence, where two lovers are parted at a train station, is shot like a memory; hazy, out of focus, hard to picture details slipping away as the overall heartbreak lingers.
I could go on and on, but let’s get to the rest of the movie.
We begin in the present, where retired police inspector Benjamn Esposito (Ricardo Darn) is taking stock of his life and attempting to write a novel about the case that never left his mind. Twenty-five years ago, a young bride was raped and murdered; Esposito and his lush (but still smart) partner Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella) get themselves in trouble, with the law and the criminals, trying to solve this thing, but without giving away spoilers, their efforts prove fruitless.
Esposito spends the next 25 years of his life with a haunted mind, both about this case and about his unrequited love for his superior (Soledad Villamil).
One of the best things about “The Secret in Their Eyes” is just how unpredictable the movie is. From one scene to the next, you never really know where Campanella and company are taking you, and once you get there, the answers really make sense. It’s a refreshing change on both counts, and it’s a little disheartening to know that I’ve got to go overseas to find a murder mystery this compelling.
But, what doesn’t quite work is the ending. With no spoilers, I can say it fits the characters and the story, but it does have a goofy quality that is hard to ignore. This probably is just me here, but I can’t get around it.
It’s a small quibble though. Everything else, from the performances and the music (and I mentioned up top ad nauseam) the directing, make the film well worth a try.
“The Secret in Their Eyes” (2009)
Written by Juan Jos Campanella and Eduardo Sacheri
Directed by Juan Jos Campanella
Starring: Soledad Villamil (Irene Menndez Hastings)
Ricardo Darn (Benjamn Esposito)
Guillermo Francella (Pablo Sandoval)