There are moments in all our lives that define when one era ends and another begins: The moments bookended by "before" and "after." For Jess (Julia Roberts), this moment was when she recognized the face of her daughter, Carolyn (Zoe Graham), whose lifeless, brutalized body lay motionless at the bottom of a garbage dumpster.
Jess, Ray (Ejiofor), and Claire (Kidman) were already established investigators when the murder of Jess' daughter took place, and the "after" of this event affected each of them deeply. Secret in Their Eyes chronicles both the immediate aftermath of the murder, as well as a break in the case 13 years later.
Although stocked with beautiful actors (Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, among others), Secret in Their Eyes is not an aesthetically pleasing film. Julia Roberts, in particular, looks every inch the tragic mother who has lost her only child, and the light within her. In fact, she looks shockingly bad, gaunt and exhausted - haunted.
Her appearance genuinely reflects the gravity of her character's loss, and what remains is stark and beautifully human. All of her energy is poured into obsessing about her daughter's killer, yet she continues to put one foot in front of the other, maintaining the practical side of her life as an investigator. The weight of it all is really quite staggering, but Jess has a secret fueling what is left of her fire.
Ray, meanwhile, has also been obsessed with the murder. He feels responsible for Jess' loss, and assigns himself to a purgatory of mind-numbing facial analysis in an attempt to locate the killer. 13 years in, he identifies the man who eluded justice. Ray returns to notify Jess and Claire of his discovery, thus upending any modicum of peace each woman has come to achieve in the matter.
Ray is oblivious to anything other than resolving the murder that turned his life upside down over a decade before. He relentlessly tracks the man he believes is responsible, and in the process leaves another former teammate dead. Jess is outraged at Ray's carelessness, but his actions force her to disclose what she's kept hidden for all of those years.
Jess' disclosure sends Ray and Claire reeling, and tosses the audience into the madness that exists where the system fails to extract justice. The lines of morality and legality are inextricably woven together, yet vengeance can be found within one, if not the other.
Secret in Their Eyes is intense, emotional, and shocking. Just when you think you have it all figured out, the story twists yet again. In the end, you will question the lengths you would go if you were in Jess's position, and in doing so, question your own humanity.
In addition to the film's overall quality, I am giving it a 10 because I consider myself an expert at guessing what happens next, yet I found my jaw gaping in surprise more than once. Kudos all around!
Check out the trailer below and catch Secret In Their Eyes in theaters now!