Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darín) is a counselor or something for the police back in the 1970's (as a friend said, this film "looks great"). He gets on a case about a 23 year-old schoolteacher who got sexually assaulted and killed. As another friend said, this hangs over Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago), the woman's husband. He won't be satisfied with the death penalty for redemption. "They just inject him and he takes a nap," he says to Esposito, "He won't get raped and murdered." Esposito says that the person responsible should get life, and Morales takes his word.
At this same time, Esposito is really madly in love with his supervisor, Irene (Soledad Villamil). As David Denby and my friend said, the film goes back and forth between past and present, so as to show the ends of the relationship that they have. Both I believe share an affection, but Esposito makes a decision that really shatters all that they could have had (ignoring the fact that she was engaged at the time). The real holdover in their relationship through time has been this Morales Case, which, like in the film "Zodiac," won't go away until solved for those involved. So, in the end, although the two different stories in the film seem unrelated, they fit into one another.
(THERE COULD BE SPOILERS AHEAD. STOP READING HERE AND BEGIN AGAIN WHEN INDICATED IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM.)
This is a film about passion, as the character Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella) discusses. (Sandoval is a drunk and unreliable screwup, but he does have some insight). He says a "guy" can change a lot of things, but not his passion. In this film, two characters, Esposito and Morales, have passions for the past. They are defined by this passion, especially in the film's climax, which shows that not every passion is born by its holder as a positive trait. This film has a very serious moral, which is not to dwell on the past too much, or else you are consumed by it. This is demonstrated partially in the way that the film sometimes confusingly switches between 1974/75 and 2000, showing that Esposito always is looking "backwards" (as opposed to Irene, who states herself that the past is "out of her jurisdiction").
What a great film this is technically. The cinematography is phenomenal. Aside from the opening sequence (whose masterful signature shot, of a porthole of a train opening up to show the entire station, is displayed in the trailer), you have the now famous "soccer stadium scene," which is quite amazing, especially in its mind-blowing opening shot. Félix Monti (as others have said) is a master at work, and this is one of the best reasons to see this film. Well-cast, one of the best technical films in a while, and a mystery film that is able to be delved into probably more than once (although, as they say, you'll know what's coming), this is the best film of 2009. A
A note: This film does share a plot trait with "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," which I did knock a couple weeks back for sharing a plot trait with David Fincher's "Se7en." I guess I'm more inclined to let it go as this film is made in much better taste and with much better skill.