May 21, 2010 at 1:00 am

Tom Long Film Review: 'The Secret in Their Eyes' -- GRADE: B+

Review: Moving, romantic, troubling 'Secret'

Soledad Villamil and Ricardo Darín in the romantic crime epic, "The Secret in Their Eyes." (Sony Pictures Classics)

In mid-'70s Argentina, a young wife is inexplicably raped and murdered in her home.

Twenty-five years later, the man who investigated the case looks back on it and still feels devastated. He decides to write a book about the killing and lay the truth out for all to see. But by reopening the mystery he finds himself pulled into it again.

This is the basic premise of the mesmerizing "The Secret in Their Eyes," a romantic crime epic from director Juan Jose Campanella, who adapted Eduardo Sacheri's novel.

For most of the film, Campanella travels back and forth in time, following his young investigator Esposito (Ricardo Darin) and the lawyer boss he secretly loves, Irene Menendez Hastings (Soledad Villamil), as they uncover the truth. But once the modern-day Esposito has finished the book he's writing, and Irene has read it, he realizes he has to find out where the players ended up.

Those players include Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago), the stricken widower, and Isidro Gomez (Javier Godino), the man Esposito comes to think is the murderer. Only by finishing their stories will Esposito be able to get on with his.

This is no mere murder mystery, though. As the story progresses, politics and bureaucratic corruption begin to figure heavily. More bodies fall and justice itself is raped, fueling Esposito's eventual need for closure.

Campanella approaches the material with a classic hand -- no quick cuts, special effects or gimmicks here. This is a flesh-and-blood movie, and both Darin and Villamil bring earthy presence to the story.

We believe these people. And we feel their pain and longing. That's no mean trick in the modern age. "The Secret in Their Eyes" is certainly worth sharing.

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