| This year’s surprise Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film comes from Argentina. It is an irresistible mystery thriller about a 25-year-old rape and murder case.
The framing device is the writing of a novel by recently retired Buenos Aires criminal court investigator Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin), who is still haunted by this matter. Two poignant love stories lie at the heart of the narrative that is set in 1999 and flashes back to 1974.
Bank clerk Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago) was newly married to beautiful young schoolteacher Liliana Colotto. They were very much in love and planning their first vacation together as husband and wife. He left for work after breakfast on June 21, 1974. He received word by telephone that his wife was the victim of this senseless crime.
Before being assigned the case, deputy Esposito and his colleague Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella) were introduced to the newly hired upper-class lawyer Irene Menendez Hastings (Soledad Villamil), who becomes their department chief. Esposito was immediately attracted to her, but he never worked up the courage to express his feelings.
The criminal investigation is your standard police procedural. The murder is initially pinned on two immigrant builders working on the terrace of an adjoining house. Esposito doesn’t believe they did it and seeks to reopen the matter. The victim’s photo album provides a crucial snapshot of a male admirer. The way this suspect looks at her with worshipping eyes is the key to solving the crime.
All of the complex characters are well-developed. Esposito and Sandoval make a great team with a close friendship. Sandoval has a drinking problem that complicates matters. Esposito and Hastings, now a judge, get closer in 1999 as they meet regularly to discuss the progress of his book.
The compelling story plays out like a page-turning suspense novel that you can’t put down. The search for the truth puts lives in jeopardy. Justice proves to be elusive because of the political overtones. A central theme is how memories of the past change over time.
Another topic addressed is the passion we have for certain things that never wavers.
The acting is superb and the camera lingers on the actors’ faces in close-ups. This movie is quite complicated and requires the viewer to pay close attention. Don’t worry if you get confused, because near the conclusion all the clues come together as key moments are revisited.
The movie was written and directed by Juan Jose Campanella (“Son of the Bride”) based on the novel “The Question of Their Eyes” by Eduardo Sacheri. It won a record 13 awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Argentina that included best film, director, cinematography, editing, sound, music, art direction and makeup.
The dialogue is in Spanish with English subtitles. Opening exclusively at the Glenwood Arts and the Tivoli in Westport for a limited engagement.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"