The Secret in Their Eyes Parent Review
This pull between the “ends” and the “means” offers some food for thought in this case of situational ethics --if you are willing to overlook the screenplay’s violent portrayals.
Thirteen years ago Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Jess (Julia Roberts) and Claire (Nicole Kidman) went through a life-changing experience that bonded them together, while at the same time, tore them apart. As a viewer, we are not sure at first what the traumatic event was, but a picture begins to emerge as the script gives us pieces of the story from both past and present timelines.
Although they work in different capacities today, in 2002 the trio was part of a special task force monitoring possible terrorist activity in the LA area. One day they received word that a female body had been found in the dumpster next door to the mosque they have under surveillance. It’s not really their job to get involved in a local homicide, however Ray and Jess’s decide to look in on the police investigation just incase there is a link between the murder and the other suspicious activities they are watching in the neighborhood. What they find is more shocking then either of them could have imagined. The victim that has been brutally raped and beaten to death is Jess’s eighteen-year-old daughter (Zoe Graham).
Again, as the audience we are in the dark. We know that in 2015 Ray wants permission from Claire, who is now the District Attorney, to reopen the unsolved case. We aren’t sure how the person of interest (Joe Cole) he singled out shortly after the crime was committed managed to escape, yet we know he did because Ray has spent the intervening years obsessively been trying to track down the alleged perpetrator. The answers to these questions slowly unfold as parallel manhunts are presented: the first one where the suspect mysteriously gets away, and the second effort where the friends loyally regroup to try again to capture their man.
While the split storyline is occasionally confusing, this artistic approach actually works well in driving the plot and engaging our curiosity. Still, it is a dark tale. You can expect verbal details about the sexual assault, along with images of a girl screaming while being punched, and eventually the heart-wrenching discovery of the corpse. Crude references to body parts, masturbation, glamorization of violence against women and soft pornographic images also come out in the search for evidence. So does the unsanctioned use of police and political authority, various fistfights, weapons use, shootouts and deaths. These depictions are usually non-graphic, but some bloody injuries are shown.
What at first appears to be a straightforward quest to capture a criminal turns instead into a complex case of situational ethics. The definition of justice is caught in a tug-of-war between how best to serve the greatest good and how much to punish the guilty one. As well, it brings into question whose values should be used when determining what is right versus what is best. The unexpected dilemma creates a desperate sense of despair for some of the characters. Left with few choices, Ray, Jess and Claire grapple with accepting defeat or taking the law into their own hands. And ironically, even the second attempt to see justice done results in the same types of issues.
This pull between the “ends” and the “means” offers some food for thought if you are willing to overlook the screenplay’s violent portrayals, foul language and theme which preys upon a mother’s worst fears. For the analytical type, perhaps the most sobering insight will be the cost of keeping secrets – something each of the key players seems to personally pay regardless of whether or not their motives are selfish or noble.Directed by Billy Ray. Starring Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Running time: 111 minutes. Theatrical release November 20, 2015. Updated May 12, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in The Secret in Their Eyes here.
The Secret in Their Eyes Parents Guide
Prosecuting the perpetrator of a sexual assault should be a straightforward legal procedure. But that’s not the case here. What issues get in the way of bringing the culprit to justice? Do you feel that he, or any defendant, should be able to use their unique circumstances to shield themselves from facing the usual consequences for breaking the law?
Do you think the guilty man depicted here realized that his privileged situation would allow him to get away with committing the crime before he acted, or do you think he just took advantage of his special immunity after the fact? Does the amount of premeditation involved in this case influence your feelings about the amount of punishment he should receive?
How do you think you would respond to an obstruction of justice such as this one? Would you be temped to take matters into you own hands the way some of the characters are? Or would you feel like you needed to play by the rules – even if they are unfair—like other characters do? What does the movie show as the long-term results for those on either side of this debate? How realistic do you think these depictions are?
What secrets does each of the characters keep from the others? How do these private feelings of guilt, anger or regret influence their behavior over the years? Might things have worked out differently if they had confessed these thought or concerns earlier? What new revelations are these characters contemplating keeping secret? What long-term consequences do you think they will face if they do?
From The Studio:
A tight-knit team of rising FBI investigators - Ray and Jess, along with their District Attorney supervisor Claire - is suddenly torn apart when they discover that Jess’s teenage daughter has been brutally and inexplicably murdered. Now, thirteen years later, after obsessively searching every day for the elusive killer, Ray finally uncovers a new lead that he’s certain can permanently resolve the case, nail the vicious murderer, and bring long-desired closure to his team. No one is prepared, however, for the shocking, unspeakable secret that will reveal the enduring, destructive effects of personal vengeance on the human soul. Written by STX Entertainment