(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.” 🙄