I was surprised to see a nearly packed house on Saturday afternoon -- for a movie with subtitles. The Chronic Critic is accustomed to being one of only a handful of cultured folk in any given theater in her hometown.
She was not surprised, however, when the crowd burst into applause as the closing credits rolled. This Argentinian winner of the 2009 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film has everything.
"Having everything" is not always a good thing. To wit, T.G.I. Friday's could be said to have everything from potato skins to chicken tenders and quesadillas to surf and turf. But, none of it is done well.
The Secret is part murder mystery/part love story/part political thriller/part comedy/part a rumination on life and love ... and every aspect of it is superb.
Let's start with the first-rate acting. Ricardo Darin smolders as Benjamin, the brooding hottie at the heart of the film. We meet Benjamin in the present day, when he's retired from his work in the criminal justice system and is trying to write a novel about a 25-year-old unsolved murder/rape case he's never gotten over.
His romantic interest, Irene, is every bit his equal. She's as lovely and intelligent as Benjamin. There is chemistry and desire between the two, but it's not acted on. Benjamin seeks out Irene -- after a 25-year-absence -- to ask her advice on his manuscript. She's now a prominent judge with a family of her own. We don't know much about what Benjamin has been up to in those 20-odd years, other than he's been consumed by this unsolved case.
The movie quickly takes us back two decades and shows us -- in gruesome detail -- why Benjamin remains haunted. He and his sidekick -- the most comical deputy since Barney Fife -- investigate and are certain they've found the perp. They have, been in a corrupt political/judicial system, they'll never be able to make it stick.
Meanwhile, Benjamin can't shake his passion for Irene. And, the murdered woman's husband can't shake his love for his slain wife. There are parallels between the men and their lost loves. But, they're doled out bit by bit in an intelligent and delicious way.
The movie moves back and forth in time, yet there's never any confusion about where we are in the story. This is first-rate story-telling and film-making (those close-ups! those continuous shots!) that deserves whatever awards and applause are heaped on it. See it!