REVIEW: Oscar-winning thriller “Secret” expands, deserves your “Eyes”

By Sean O’Connell The Secret in Their Eyes (***1/2 out of 4)

The 2010 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language film, Juan Jose Campanella’s “Secret” illustrates how the brutal rape and murder of one young woman impacts a handful of disconnected strangers over one year, then five years, then a decade, and then several decades. Her death is a stone dropped into a placid lake. Waves ripple out, and no matter where you are parked, eventually they are going to rock your boat.

Campanella tells two interlocking stories, which feature the same characters but are separated by generations. One focuses on the early days of the investigation into Liliana Coloto’s (Carla Quevedo) murder. The second lays out a futile lack of progress that has occurred decades later. To their credit, the same actors play both young and old convincingly.

When he first learns of the crime, Esposito (Ricardo Darin) is a hotshot attorney with a drunken colleague, Pablo (Guillermo Francella), and an unhealthy crush on his lovely superior, Irene (Soledad Villamil). Esposito’s legal probe connects him to Liliana’s widower, Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago), as well as the chief suspect, Isidoro Gomez (Javier Godino). As “Secret” unfolds, Esposito tracks, loses, then finally captures Gomez; Irene assists, then distances herself from, Esposito; and Morales appears to compartmentalize his grief and move on. With all three instances, nothing is what it seems.

It won’t surprise you to learn Campanella, an Argentinian director, has logged time helming episodes of “Law & Order.” But he’s also a gifted camera whiz, showing off with a breathtaking, unbroken tracking shot that goes over, under, around and on to a soccer field. It’s masterful. Take that, Alfonso Cuaron.

It’s not all flash, though. Campanella also has created a slow burn of a thriller, an intricately plotted and subtly acted mystery that methodically heats up a cold case by following an investigation that meets multiple dead ends. Some are political. Others are emotional. All of them produce frustration, anger, and heartache. Ultimately, it’s about the quest for closure. To be certain, “Secret” ends on an actual door closing shut. But it also illustrates how we think we can only be satisfied when we achieve closure, yet more often than not, closure only opens the door to more problems.

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