THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2009)

The Secret in Their Eyes Poster

(a “you can’t change your passion” film review by Timothy J. Verret)

It just hurts me deeply to need to write a film review and give away a shocking ending at the same time. I don’t want to give it away, but I don’t know any other way to write a film review of THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES. Maybe I should have called it a “spoiler alert” film review instead. Whatever the case, PLEASE know that you need not read any further if you don’t want the shocking ending of this film given away to you. That said, I do hope you will read further because “I can’t change my passion.”

This is a film about a retired criminal investigator Benjamín Espósito (Ricardo Darín) who decides to write a novel in which he revisits a rape and murder case that was never solved. He reaches out to a former colleague, Judge Irene Menéndez Hastings (Soledad Villamil), to help him put all the pieces together. His memories unfold for us as the viewer, and we are taken through a thrill-a-minute journey into what it means to have a passion that you can’t change and a motivation to understand why that is so. Benjamin is gentle and fierce (BOTH) and he’s driven and vulnerable (BOTH). I know that the relationship between Benjamin and Irene (BOTH) means much in this film, but what I found so “much” is the (BOTH) relationship between Benjamin and the husband, Ricardo Morales, of the raped and murdered Liliana Coloto. They have a relationship that is mutually determined for justice in this horrible case. While Benjamin as the investigator of the crime must stay legalistic, Ricardo must “stay” where true justice is concerned. This all leads to that shocking ending I mentioned at the start of this review.

Here goes the “spoiler alert:” At the end of the film, we find out why this rape and murder case remained unsolved. Ricardo knew that any legalistic activity to “put to sleep by lethal injection” Isidoro Gomez (Javier Godino), the rapist and murderer of Liliana, would be no true justice. We are shown through Benjamin’s memory that Ricardo actually kidnapped, shot and killed Isidoro, but this memory is NOT true justice. Benjamin finds out that his memory was incorrect when he starts piecing together the words of the conversations he had with Ricardo. This leads Benjamin to go to Ricardo’s home and discover what has been Ricardo’s “true justice.” The truth of a faulty memory is that Ricardo did kidnap Isidoro but for 25 years, he has kept him in a prison in a shed in the back of his residence. When Benjamin sneaks up on the property, he sees Ricardo going to this shed and follows him. Ricardo goes to the shed to feed his prisoner, Isidoro, and when Isidoro notices Benjamin, he drops his plate from the shock of seeing another soul that he has not seen in 25 years. Ricardo notices Benjamin but does not lift his head up (shame?). Isidoro comes to the bars to meet Benjamin, and then he drops a line that reached me in the deepest recesses of my struggles with suffering and abandonment. Isidoro says to Benjamin about Ricardo: “Please tell him to talk to me.” We know then and there that for 25 years, Ricardo has not spoken a word to Isidoro, not even a “hello.” Ricardo has simply kept his prisoner alive and that’s it! Talk about suffering and abandonment, right? 😪

I never seem to shy away from making a connection between human suffering and nonhuman animal suffering (BOTH). If I’m wrong to make that connection, then I’m wrong….but I connect anyway. Having Ricardo keep Isidoro in a prison without communicating one word to him makes me connect nonhuman farm animals on factory farms. Never a word is spoken to these nonhuman farm animals on factory farms except maybe, “take that!” or “move!” or “stupid animal!” The suffering and abandonment that these nonhuman farm animals must feel on factory farms is not something that I can even imagine….though I typically do. The consistent and constant fear that they must experience from inhumane humans who are causing them so much suffering and abandonment. The putrid and pungent smell of these nonhuman animals’ fear must only mirror the putrid and pungent smell of the factory farm where they are forced to lie in their own waste. How in God’s Name of Love can we “name” these nonhuman farm animals as so unloving, so wasteful, so unseen, so unworthy? How can we allow them to feel so much suffering and abandonment? Why have we allowed them to be Isidoro? Can’t we PLEASE “change our passion” to stop causing nonhuman farm animals so much pain? Or will we not lift our heads up like Ricardo (shame?).

THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009. Looking over the other nominees, I see that Germany’s WHITE RIBBON was in the same category. I have seen WHITE RIBBON and it really is hard to imagine that any film would win over that one but, if there is one to win over it, it would be this film. BOTH films are actually quite similar, in that they are devastatingly brutal and probing as to seeking to understand how humans hurt one another in ways that are extremely inhumane. And, yes, I am talking about how devastatingly brutal and probing it is how humans hurt nonhuman animals in ways that are extremely inhumane. BOTH, once again, as it always seems to be for me.😉

And speaking of “once again,” it seems I did not write a review of this film once again that can be labelled as a “standard, textbook” film review. I usually write about mesmerizing performances by the actors and yet I didn’t tackle that here, though the performances in this film by all the actors were downright mesmerizing. Nor did I write about exceptional directing or a startling screenplay, though BOTH for this film were indeed just that. I write these film reviews because I am searching for understanding that only on the screen can there indeed be a “bleed” into my life off the screen. I want to understand what a film can teach me, not what I can necessarily teach another by writing a “paint-by-numbers” film review. I look for the connection of what a film speaks to me that I must speak forward from my own truth, even if no one understands my own “speaking-forward” truth. I’m not here to dictate through these film reviews what the journey of another should be. I’m only here to dictate my own journey that these film reviews afford me, and I can only pray that whoever is a witness to my journey of writing these film reviews will see their own journey in the process.

If you didn’t mind my “spoiler alert” for this film review, THANK YOU! And if you honestly believe “I can’t change my passion” to be grateful to you about that, just look into “the secret of my eyes.” 🙄

3 thoughts on “THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2009)

  1. For the record, I tend to absolutely disagree with you Mr. T, for the first time. As much as I understand your (and our ) love for non-human children of God and how flesh and blood mortals almost always end up hurting them, I don’t think their sensitive predicament is liable to be paralleled with that of an abuser like ISIDIRO . Criminals who outrage the modesty of men and women or kill should be given the most brutal punishments by law though what Ricardo does is still humane enough considering what the assailant did to his wife, an unspeakable crime. So I think the decree of silence for him was justified though I would wish him to be given a slow and painful death through law which physically severes him and his infernal soul.

    A similar case was what I couldn’t grasp in DEAD MAN WALKING but there atleast the nun(Susan Sarandon) had the benefit of doubt regarding Sean Penn’s actual assault and murder of the victim, which was of course revealed to be his doing in the end. But in hindsight, I don’t approve of Mercy or clemency for such abusers because then the true idea of justice and right from wrong will be bungled forever. It so happens that the perpetrator is given lawful pardons while the victim, most of them dead and unable to speak for themselves, end up being a tragic footnote.

    So I don’t think an animalistic man’s case need to be put in the same bracket with those of innocent animals. You may disagree with me but I’ve said what I believe in and that is strictest punishment for these criminals.

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  2. Hi PJ:

    Even if I did disagree with you, God forbid I would want to “bring you down” because of it. If I were to be this way, then I would be making and staking the claim that I am ALWAYS right and, once again, God forbid! I see where you are coming from. Of course, I am a Christian which means, as I always write, that I MUST extend love, compassion and mercy to BOTH humans AND nonhuman animals. Yes, that means I MUST extend love, compassion and mercy to those like Isidiro. Much as it pains me, I MUST! And speaking of “nonhuman animals,” yes, that, too, means I MUST extend love, compassion and mercy to those who abuse them. WOW! Takes a saint to accomplish this, and I sure ain’t NO SAINT! And what kind of Christian would I be if I didn’t forgive those who disagree with me? So many Christians call themselves, “Christians,” and yet they cannot forgive. HELLO? Once again, takes a saint to accomplish this! The tragic outcomes that are the fate of BOTH humans AND nonhuman animals in the names of “cruelty” and “hate” are always me shouting out to Jesus, as Jesus shouted out to His Father on The Cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Once again, takes a saint to accomplish this and, once again, I sure ain’t NO SAINT! Thanks for your honesty here, PJ, and I don’t think I want to be someone who cannot forgive someone if they disagree with me. There is an old saying in 12-step recovery that asks the recovery individual, “do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” I always have to remember that I want to be happy, so I CANNOT always be right! 😉

    Love and many, many blessings, PJ,
    Timothy (“Mr. T”)

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  3. I saw the Hollywood remake first, starring Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman, and though the twist at the end was really good, the movie itself overall was just ok to me. When I came to know of the Argentinian original and watched that some time later, now that was breathtakingly good and I’m not surprised at all to read here that it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. I’m glad for the filmmakers, it’s such a good movie.

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