THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES
NOTE: This spoiler was written by Emilia.
The films begins in Buenos Aires, 1999 with Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) writing about a couple’s departing exchange at a train station in a spiral notebook. Unsatisfied, he rips the page from the book and starts anew, this time explaining how a man still remember everything about his final morning with his wife, then transitions over to her brutal rape and murder. He later awakens in the middle of the night, scribbles something, and goes back to sleep. He awakens the next morning and reads the word “Temo,” which translates into “I fear.”
He walks into a federal building and enters the office of Irene Menendez Hastings, who’ s an old friend and quite happy to see him. They talk for a bit and he explains that he’s writing about an old case he investigated 25 years earlier. She’s visibly bothered by this, but supports his choice, even gifting him an old typewriter. He confides that he’s unsure of where to begin, so she suggests that he start where he remembers best.
He flashes back to a younger Irene (played by the same actress) being introduced to he and his partner Pablo Sandoval as his new boss; there’s immediate attraction. Some time later, he’s told to report to the scene of a rape and murder. He contests that it’s not his turn, but the other investigator Romano says he’s tied up with a petty crime. They argue for a bit before it’s decided that Esposito will go. He arrives and is shocked by the scene a 23-year-old teacher named Lilliana brutally raped and murdered in her home. He joins Det. Baez to go interrogate her husband Ricardo Morales, who’s questioned about their habits. Later at his office, he, Irene, and Pablo are finishing up another case when Romano arrives, claiming that he’s captured the alleged murderers, two construction workers that a neighbor claims were in the area and hadn’t been seen since the crime. He arrives at the jail and after seeing that the men were badly beaten into confessing, he attacks Romano for his duplicity.
He goes to speak with Morales, who asks what will happen to the man caught; Esposito tells him that he’ll receive the death penalty. Morales comments that that’s an unfair luxury for the man resonsible, preferring that the man “live a life full of nothing.” While looking through a photo album, he notices a man looking suspiciously at Lilliana in some of her younger photos. He questions Morales, who’s clueless until he finds his nameIsidoro Gomezwritten among others opposite a photo.
Present day, Esposito and Irene are discussing his progress with the novel. She admits that she thought him crazy in how he made that connection just by looking at a picture. He explains that it was the look in Gomez’s eyes; they spoke to him. She questions why he’s decided to address this now. He begins to explain his loneliness and the connection it may have with this case, when Irene’s husband calls.
Back in 1974, Morales calls a Gomez’s mother from Lilliana’s village inquiring about Gomez, and learns that Gomez moved to Buenos Aires a month earlier and where he currently works. He breaks down as he lies that his wife recommended the job for Gomez and hears of how Gomez was crazy for Lilliana. Esposito and Baez arrive at a construction site and are given Gomez’s address, which he abandoned after receiving a call, presumably from his mother. Esposito asks for permission from his superior to search the home of Gomez’s mother. He’s denied, but goes anyway and persuades Pablo to go with him to be his lookout. He discovers letters and is browsing them when Pablo joins him. After he scolds Pablo for not watching out, he goes to browse the trash. Gomez’s mother comes home earlier then expected, but doesn’t notice them. On the journey home, Pablo admits to stealing the letters, and is scolded once more by Esposito who fears she’ll warn Gomez once she discovers the letters missing.
Back in the office, Esposito’s supervisor reprimands him after learning from a colleague that Esposito broke into Gomez’s mother’s home. Irene and he argue over his lack of trust in her. She’s able to get him out of trouble with other superiors, but informs him that the case is closed. He’s upset by this, but goes to get the file.
Present day, he ad Irene are in the middle of another lunch going through photos. She tells him that this may be a good idea for him, but for her, she doesn’t want to look back. She says in a regrettable tone that she has to settle for what she can get “some” justice, a life with her husband; she can’t look back.
Flashback to 1975, as Esposito walks through a train station, he encounters Morales, who tells him that he waits at a different train station every day, hoping to catch Gomez. It’s a year after the murder and he fears he’s losing his memories of his wife. Esposito sympathizes with him and goes to speak with Irene, who’s become engaged. She misunderstands what he’s about to say and begins to shut the door for privacy when Pablo enters, stating the Esposito asked him to join also. He explains his encounter with Morales and the pity he feels, stating that this murder has left Morales stuck, but that he is also touched by the love and devotion Morales still feels for his wife. He asks if she can imagine feeling that for someone, which she obviously does. Though she initially shows opposition, she agrees to re-open the case. Reviewing the letters once more, Pablo uncovers clues in a letter, with the help of some of his drunken bar buddies, showing Gomez to be a fan of the soccer team, The Racing Club. They arrive at a game and find him in the stands. Just as they are about to arrest him, a goal is scored and he gives chase. They eventually catch and arrest him.
Irene suggests that Esposito wait for a judge before interrogating. He continues anyway and begins to suspect that Gomez is innocent. Irene arrives to inform Esposito that the judge would be arriving soon, and notices Gomez staring at her breasts. She senses something and begins to “explain” to Esposito why Gomez couldn’t have committed the crime he’s not strong enough, not smart enough, his penis wouldn’t have been big enough to cause damage. This slowly enrages Gomez who stands and exposes himself to Irene before attacking her and admitting to “f**king the shit out of her.” Esposito threatens to kill him, and later finds Morales to tell him the good news.
Months later, they learn that Gomez has been set free with the help of Romano, who taunts them and challenges Esposito. Gomez, who’s a hitman for a Peronist party, enters an elevator that Irene and Esposito are in and indirectly threatens them by loading a gun in front of them. He meets with Morales, who assures Esposito he will not seek retaliation for fear that he’d be caught and spend his life in prision. Later, Irene confronts him about their feelings. He plays coy, but after she persists, they arrange a time and place to meet. He arrives at a bar to retrieve Pablo, who’s gotten into a drunken argument. He takes Pablo to his apartment and goes to fetch his wife. When he arrives, he’s devastated to discover Pablo’s been murdered. Believing Romano to be behind the murder, Irene escorts him to the train station to escape danger. They share an emotional goodbye, nearly kiss, and part ways (the scene from the beginning of the movie).
Back in the present, Irene finishes reading the rough draft. She questions the end of the novel, which is their parting, indirectly expressing how she’s felt since and asking why he didn’t take her with him. When he’s unable to answer, they brainstorm a better ending, which reveals that he’s divorced and returned to Buenos Aires ten years earlier to find Irene married with two children. He questions how she can life such an empty life, she doesn’t respond.
They search for Morales’s current address, who now lives in a more rural area. He visits him and sees that Morales remains as committed to Lilliana as before. He reads the novel and suggests Esposito move on. Esposito asks how Morales learned to live without Lilliana; how he could accept that Gomez was free. Morales gets upset and asks Esposito to leave. Esposito recounts Pablo’s murder and suspects that Pablo pretended to be Esposito to save him, or that the criminals didn’t even realize whom they’d killed. Morales asks Esposito to sit and explains that he suspected Gomez would eventually come after Esposito so he waited outside Esposito’s house and followed Gomez home. As Gomez was on his way to Esposito’s, Morales attacked and kidnapped him, murdered him, and disposed of the body. He implores Esposito to move passed this and live his life.
On his drive home, Esposito starts to replay his previous conversations and comes to a realization. He walks through a field back to Morales’s home and waits. He sees Morales carry a tray of food towards a smaller house, and follows him. This part is a bit confusing given the way things are cut Morales and Gomez kind of resemble each other when things happen fast, so at first one might think that Esposito is piecing together that Morales is the real killer. That’s not the case, Esposito finds that Morales, who never believed Gomez deserved the luxury of a quick death, has kept him imprisoned for the past 24 years. He’s kept him well fed and cared for, but hasn’t spoken to him or let him outside. Gomez sees Esposito and begs that he tell Morales to speak to him. Esposito realizes Morales is serving justice the only way he knows how, by forcing Gomez to live a life full of nothing. With that, Esposito leaves, at peace with the past at last.
At his home, he takes the notepad with “Temo” on it and writes an “A” between the Te and mo, transforming the meaning from “I fear” to “I love you”. He arrives at Irene’s office and declares finally that he has to talk to her. Realizing the significance, Irene happily tells him to shut the door.