I feel bad for admitting this but I only heard about this film after it won the Oscar for best Foreign Film in 2010. This was only the second year that I had started to pay attention to the Foreign Language category. However I was not able to see any of the nominees from the category because at the time I lived in such a remote town and they were not available yet from Netflix, my only bastion of sanity. But I lived vicariously through the many bloggers I started to follow and I latched onto this film as being the perfect nominee. It represented everything that made this category the only vital and interesting category that remained. Unlike other categories, the history of the country was not covered up and sanitized but made personal through one individual. It had complicated human relationships, divorce as the norm, and adult emotions at the forefront. All the nominees in the more traditional categories are only technically good because they live up to a standard, but each year I feel at least a couple of the nominees (the ones that usually win) become more and more sanitized. You can inject your own examples for whether I am right or wrong. My point here is that the foreign film section is the place where you find true experimentation and therefore great films.
Centered around Benjamin (I love the way Benjamin is pronounced in Spanish. It sounds so exotic!) Esposito, a retired clerk who worked for the district attorney’s office but now finds his days with nothing to do. Therefore he sits down to write a novel about a lingering case in his mind. It takes him back to his glory days in the seventies and the start of his love for a woman who would become the next district attorney and his closest friend. The case involves a brutally raped and murdered woman. The husband of this woman seemed on the surface to be so completely in love with her and completely devastated by her murder that he would be willing to do anything to get the killer, include wait for weeks at alternating train stations for his arrival back to Buenos Aires. Benjamin goes to extraordinary lengths to find this killer who was once one of the murdered woman’s friends in order bring some justice to this broken-hearted man and soothe his own soul against the lost love of this in control and completely ravishing woman.
This intense mystery is grounded by Benjamin’s relationships with the people around him. The assistant woman lawyer friend encourages him even when he has lost every other ally, his drunken buddy steals for him and brings him joy even though it breaks his heart to constantly see him such a mess all the time, and the husband gives him a sense and a willingness to go on with an investigation that would otherwise be lost in the pile on his overflowing desk. I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes, but the all-knowing detached detective is so over played it is gross. People in real life don’t pursue something with such ruthlessness unless they feel connected to something about the case that is compelling or have people around them encouraging him. It is the same with anything else in life. If you have absolutely no encouragement, no attachment to the subject matter, than why invest all of your time in it? Even if you are a super genius, you need something. This film gives Benjamin plenty of need to pursue. He wants to make an impression on his lawyer friend, he wants to do good by this devastated husband, and he wants to involve his drunken assistant/friend in hopes that he will forget about his drinking (spoiler alert: he doesn’t)
I loved the scenes between Benjamin and Irene Hastings (his lawyer crush). At one point in the film, the old Benjamin brings his half-finished manuscript to district attorney Irene in order for her to read it. She gives this heartbreaking speech about how she doesn’t want to revisit the events that had them in such a bind, but it takes a turn to the more personal. She says something to the fact that she is happy with her husband and her kids. That this case stirs up emotions that would be better off not stirred. It is a curious speech full of regret and longing that has probably gone for far too long for their relationship to be anything other than friendship. It is a great scene and a great speech that turns the events on its head. I can now see in the scenes past and in the scenes to come her longing for him just as much as his longing for her that I may have missed before. That is why I like this film. It is subtle. Do I have to say anything about the train sequences between them? I think not…