Trip Down Memory Train: Darín bargains with his own tortuous past.

There’s a moment in The Secret in Their Eyes that makes you want to revoke its Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Two co-workers, an unspoken attraction between them, are saying goodbye on a train platform. The train takes off; the woman left behind starts running after it, anguish in her face as she catches up to her nearly beloved’s window so they can press their hands against the glass, prison-visitation-style. You can hardly believe such a cliché is possible in writer-director Juan José Campanella’s thus far excellent adaptation of an Eduardo Sacheri novel—but then the sprinter herself calls bullshit on this 25-year-old memory immediately afterward, and the characters and the viewers can have a laugh. That such wit not only exists but is frequent throughout this thriller about the rape and murder of a young Buenos Aires woman bespeaks the impressive balance Campanella achieves in a genre not typically known for subtlety. The script itself, though, relies on a small but forgivable crutch. Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darín), a recently retired federal investigator, has no family and too much free time, so he decides to write a book on a case that has haunted him for over two decades. This gives him an excuse—and the film a framing device—to visit Irene Hastings (Soledad Villamil), his former supervisor and crush. As Benjamin and Irene talk about the old days, the 1974 investigation plays out for the benefit of the audience, with Villamil and Darín youth’d and aged fairly realistically as the story shifts time periods. The Secret in Their Eyes lingers on themes of police corruption, grief, the often astounding injustice of the justice system, and love lost. Hitchcockian tension, a breathtaking chase, and ambiguous victims and villains seamlessly navigate existential musings. Benjamin’s urge to write a book will not only keep him busy but also, he hopes, fill a gaping hole or two he’s been unable to quell. Another small knock on the film is its bright ending, which feels tacked on. But it reinforces the story’s strongest message of not dwelling on bygones. For if you do, as one character eloquently tells Benjamin, “You’ll have a thousand pasts and no future.”

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