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Christopher Webster [Film Festival 02.05.10] Canada movie review drama

Year: 2009
Directors: Daniel Grou
Writers: Patrick Senécal
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 7.3 out of 10

Last summer, a fun little revenge thriller called Law Abiding Citizen was released into theaters. As dumb as it was, it was hard to resist the sweet siren song of a story about an ex-military engineer who uses ingenious booby traps to outwit bumbling lawyers and feckless civil servants. It was fun to revel in some harmless, impotent stick-it-to-the-man fantasy. I ate popcorn.

I did not eat popcorn during 7 Days.

7 Days is the polar opposite of films like Law Abiding Citizen, that gloss over human suffering in favor of the mystery and thrills of revenge. In fact, it's about as dire and as brutally violent as a film can get. It's a tragic story about a man descending into soul-shattering misery after his daughter is violently raped and murdered. A man so desperate to relieve his own guilt, he abducts his daughter's killer from police custody and holes him up in a secluded cabin where he silently tortures him for a week even though he knows the police are on his trail. He is totally willing to ruin his marriage, his life and go to jail in favour of corporeal retribution.

It's a revenge tale yes, but not one that holds much catharsis for the main character, or us. The violence changes him. We watch him become something of a monster, despite his noble intentions. There's a scene in the final act where he even abducts the mother of another girl who was murdered years earlier. He can't bear to hear that she's "moved on" and wants her to be a part of his suffering. Misery loves company as they say.

7 Days is based on a novel called "Les 7 jours du Talion" written by Patrick Senécal. Senécal also wrote the screenplay, so I imagine that's why the film relies a lot on subtext. There's not a lot of talking done by the main character and when he does talk he's ranting like a lunatic to his wife on the phone. Novels allow us to peek inside character's thoughts. Films don't do that so well without narration, so 7 Days leaves the viewer with many questions about motivations.

I predict a lot will be said about Claude Legault's performance as grieving father, Bruno Hamel. For me though, it's really Martin Dubreuil, Hamel's victim, who deserves some praise. It's truly a fearless performance. The fact that it's one dimensional is a given, but you feel every wound and believe his fear. I wouldn't go so far as to say you ever really feel sorry for him, but his performance is stellar.

This is Canadian director Daniel Grou's first directorial effort and he makes a good case for being a force in new Canadian cinema (at least I hope so). It's superbly directed and confident in every aspect. It's really the story that brought down the rating a bit. Perhaps it doesn't translate that well into film, but 7 Days is a very one-note viewing experience. And when the film does venture outside of the conflict between torturer and victim, it relies on a couple of very overt metaphors that are just too obvious to appreciate. One is the carcass of a dead deer that Hamel comes across in his front yard. It haunts him because it reminds him of his daughters body. A little too easy I say. For a film so subtle in its performance and construction I'm surprised it didn't handle this aspect a little better.

If anyone ever tells me that Canadians make bad movies, I plan on showing them 7 Days. While not the most engrossing story, it's still as well made as it is shocking with great performances across the board.

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Kresh (13 years ago) Reply

"Even if you're the kind of person that swings towards the eye-for-an-eye end of the political punishment spectrum, I predict you'll rethink your views after seeing 7 Days."

Expertly done Straw Man there. Bravo.


agentorange (13 years ago) Reply

I edited my review to remove that comment because I have no intention of getting into a political discussion over a film that has nothing to do with politics. It's more about human nature.

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