This is a movie on many different levels, so obviously, it wasn’t made by an American studio. Director Juan José Campanella made the movie as an examination of loneliness, but it combines a pretty straight-forward crime mystery with a story of unspoken love and chances missed. Also thrown in are references to Peronista Argentina and the political favoritism that followed.
Recently retired Benjamin (Ricardo Darin), a former Buenos Aires investigator for the state criminal courts, embarks writing on a novel about a rape/murder of a 23-year-old woman in 1974 that has haunted him ever since. He tells the gorgeous judge, Irene (Soledad Villamil), who was also involved then and with whom he has carried a huge torch for a quarter century. The story of the novel is told in flashbacks, but Espósito finds himself in the middle of a political mess extending into the present.
Espósito forms an emotional attachment to the victim’s husband, Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago), whose devotion and love for his wife contrasts with Espósito’s feelings for Irene. Espósito is aided by his drunken partner Sandoval (Guillermo Francella, a famous Argentine comic) in tracking down his suspect, Gomez (Javier Godino). When things seem to be coming to a good conclusion, however, Espósito’s life falls apart, as does his investigation.
An old man eating alone. It was that image that haunted me and finally took me back to the novel. Not the crime itself. Or the suspense. Or the genre. The Old Man eating alone. How does someone end up all alone in life? Does that Old Man wonder how he ended up eating alone in a bar with no one by his side? One can deny it, forget about it, cover it up for a time, but the past always comes back. Perhaps during the second act of his life, the Old Man managed to ignore what he had done during the first act, but if he wants to make a successful transition into the third act, he will have to deal with his unfinished business.
My aim was to tell this story as a combination: of small beings wandering through a sea of people, among huge structures, lost in the crowd – and their eyes. The story of that man walking by a hundred meters away at the train station, with five hundred bodies between us and him. What could we learn about him if suddenly, with no cuts, we could see a close up of his eyes? What secrets would they have to tell?
The result is this brilliantly told story highlighted by outstanding acting. While all the performances are good, Godino creates a memorable suspect. Even the subtitles have only one or two flaws. While they sometimes are flashed off too quickly, and while not as good as they could be, they are much better than the normal subtitled movie.
This is as good a movie as I’ve seen so far this year. In Spanish.