These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.
This is continuing my review of SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2015). Originally, this was all on one review, which worked for the app I was using on Facebook, but for the platform I use on WordPress, nah, too weird looking. So I separated the reviews.
But the review’s not over. Having done my research on this films original movie, I discovered that EL SECRETO was critically better than SECRET. Big shock, am I right? But it’s HOW much better that staggered me a bit. IMDb gave EL SECRETO an 8.2/10, which (as of 2010) made it the first film to snag a position on IMDb’s Top 250 list, AND was an Academy Award winner for best foreign language film.
Already, we can all tell the original is ten shit-loads better.
Finding a decent quality version on Youtube, I took the time to watch this movie too.
This is my honest opinion of: EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS (2009)
Retired federal agent Benjamín (Ricardo Darín) is trying to write a novel, recounting an unresolved case that he was a part of twenty-five years ago, involving the rape and murder of a young woman. Deciding to visit an old colleague and friend (potential romantic interest), now a judge, Irene (Soledad Villamil), the two talk about the case in hopes that Benjamín can the details just right as he remembers the case involving red tape, the deaths of more people, and a possibly rekindled romance between him and Irene.
Significantly better than SECRET, but still suffers from a few similar problems.
Let me start with what’s better. The structure. While SECRET was trying to be MEMENTO and ends up being more spastic and less sensible or engaging, EL SECRETO knows where the focus of the story is supposed to be: the investigation into this woman’s death. I give credit to SECRET for trying to enhance the return of the protagonist and work it in to the overall plot better, instead of just having those present-day scenes JUST about the romantic tension between him and the romantic interest, but the editing almost makes those choices pointless.
At least here, I don’t have to squint to see which time period the story is taking place. It just keeps it in the past, only OCCASIONALLY bringing us back to the present. In SECRET, the time gap between the murder and the protagonist’s return is thirteen years. In EL SECRETO, the time lapse is twenty-five years. This makes the transitions between time periods MUCH easier to identify. Benjamín is clearly older, with grey hair, a van dyke beard instead of a full-faced beard that he sported in the past, and wrinkles. I have no problem with this. However, in SECRET, Ray has only a couple of grey strands that took me EFFORT to find. He basically didn’t age and the story follows him exclusively. This is daunting and frustrating.
Now for the romance subplot: EL SECRETO is, again, better. Their relationship is professional, but they work closely on the case and their bond is developed pretty well, despite complications. Hell, at first, Benjamín’s advances are met with rejection. So when these characters are reunited years later, their relationship is very believable, made even more powerful that they don’t really get together at the end (in favor of a more ambiguous future for the two characters). In SECRET, the relationship is far less subtle. There’s no denial that there is romantic tension between Ray and Claire. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the relationship wasn’t built up to be such a big deal to the story, or if Ray was a better written character. Ray is socially awkward, acting more like a shy eighth grader about to ask a girl to the dance, rather than a man having courage to ask a woman out. In fact, most of his mannerisms are pretty creepy. Out of the blue asking if he can walk her to her car, insisting when she says no, and she goes with it acting like this situation wouldn’t make anyone else uncomfortable when it clearly would. Granted, Ray and Claire don’t get together in the end, but I think the focus on the two of them is misplaced. Ray’s friend/partner’s daughter was raped and murdered and he’s more worried about how lucky he’s going to get with his boss.
Don’t get me started on the interrogation scene. In SECRET, Ray accidentally tugs on an upset Claire’s arm and SOMEHOW undoes her top button exposing her cleavage and doesn’t even fix it. Ray even manages to sneak a peek at her goodies (to be fair, it IS Nicole Kidman) before snapping back to professionalism. She doesn’t even fix it. Nope, she just lets that imagery run wild to any passersby. Wanna guess what happens when the protagonist is interrogating the rapist-murderer? She uses that unbuttoned blouse to her advantage and even comments on it herself. Never mind the borderline sexism, but it’s like she’s baiting him to eventually hit her and demean her, which leads to Ray kicking Marzin’s ass. In EL SECRETO, it’s played much better. Yes, Benjamín tugs on Irene’s arm and undoes the top button. But it’s clearly shown that the button accidentally tears off (plus, Irene reacts more appropriately than Claire does who almost laughs at the situation) and although the cleavage is shown, it’s more modest and Benjamín doesn’t sneak a peek; he continues to be respectful and professional. During the interrogation scene, she is clearly not comfortable with Gómez staring down her blouse, and doesn’t even need to use her boobage as a device to get him to show his true colors, unlike Claire (granted, Claire gets that confession out of Marzin better than Irene does to Gómez).
However, in both movies, the legalities are still in question, but an argument could be made that I watch enough cop shows that I have a pretty solid idea of how the American justice system works. When a rapist-murderer confesses to his crimes, he goes to jail. The red tape in this movie is a little harder to swallow and doesn’t seem plausible. At least in this Hispanic country, I don’t know how their justice system works, therefore, someone like that COULD be set free. I don’t know. With enough research, I could probably discover that it’s not that easy either, but I do lean toward the legalities not making sense in either movie.
Now for the ending. EL SECRETO is better. Morales constantly preaches that he doesn’t want Gómez to get the death penalty, but rather to rot in jail forever. “A life of nothing.” Later Benjamín finds out that Morales eventually captured his wife’s murderer and locks him up in his own homemade jail cell in his barn (this makes less sense than it does in SECRET). While I knew this ending was coming, I have to say, the emotional impact it leaves is more effective, as there is a subtle build-up to this outcome. When we do see Gómez, he’s frail, and walks up to Benjamín and asks him to convince Morales to talk to him. The delivery of this line is SO good that it’s almost like he’s just desperate for any kind of human interaction that was denied of him over the course of the last twenty-five years. This scene ends on Benjamín just leaving. Yeah, just leaving Gómez to his fate. No objections to Morales’ choice.
So what does SECRET do different? Well, like Morales, Jess also preaches that she prefers life in prison than death. Ray also finds Marzin locked in a homemade prison cell in Jess’ barn (more sensible as she is a cop, but how do you get away with the know-how of MAKING one in the first place?). This is where it falls short of EL SECRETO. Ray finds a withered and broken Marzin, but when Marzin sees Ray, he doesn’t give a subtle delivery laced in double meaning, he’s full-on begging Ray to tell Jess to talk to him. It’s… not as nuanced. To make matters even worse, Ray leaves his gun for Jess and starts digging a hole for no reason. Then Jess, despite saying that Marzin deserves life in prison and not death… kills Marzin with Ray’s gun. This is a horse-shit ending. There’s no reason for killing him. Ray’s made it clear that he wants the worst to happen to this guy and here he is, getting the worst. But… this poorly written shit happens instead. What, did he KNOW Jess was going to kill Marzin?? How??
Despite similar problems, EL SECRETO is the superior film and is a damn good movie on its own.
My honest rating for EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS (2009): 4/5