Saturday, October 2, 2010

Movie Review: Seven Days (Les Sept Jours Du Talion, 2010)

My introduction into the amazing Halloween month of October will (sadly) probably be no different than my previous posts. I do not have the confidence to make lists of the best movies to watch on Halloween night or anything like that, for I readily admit that there are still huge holes in my horror movie watching experiences. Perhaps this month I can continue with my Catching Up On The Classics thread of reviews, and by the end of the month, my horror-lover cred will have a few more points than it did at the beginning of the month.

But that's for later. My first review of October is not a classic horror film, but rather a brand spanking new revenge film from those wonderful Canadian folks called Seven Days.

First of all, a nod to James at Behind the Couch for reviewing this film a few weeks ago (read it here). I caught the synopsis and his thoughts about it and was very intrigued by the plot. I'm always into revenge stories - but perhaps more so the ongoing and never-ending debate about morality with revenge. Both sides are justified, and yet neither side is justified.

Seven Days is the methodical and quiet tale of Bruno and Sylvie Hamel, a family broken by the rape and murder of their daughter, Jasmine, only eight years old. Despite the police catching the killer, Anthony Lemaire, Bruno decides to take his own kind of justice. He kidnaps Lemaire and takes him to a remote cottage where he will keep and torture him until killing him after seven days, on his daughter's birthday.

Once happily married, now torn apart by tragedy.
For me, this is ultimate revenge tale setup. We've had revenge movies of guys whose wives or girlfriends were killed by drug lords or whatever, but those scenarios are not powerful enough. This one - the loss of life and innocence of a young girl and her father taking revenge - is the perhaps the only revenge tale I would understand. Why always the father? Simple. The mother is supposed to be the mother. She's supposed to be nurturing and understanding and not wanting any harm to come to anyone, either the perpetrators or especially her own family. She never wants her husband to do anything rash to get him into trouble. Maybe it's that age-old thing of women and girls wanting a man there to protect him. Maybe it's the showing of real raw emotion when a man lashes out against someone who hurt someone he loves.

I give the movie credit for that, but at the same time, this is the not the most original revenge story. Seems like there have been a lot of avenging fathers in films recently (The Last House on the Left, Taken). And yet it seems to work all the time, at least for me. And original or not, I still think this film is effective on a high level because of the different issues it brings up related to revenge and morality.

Legally, of course, Bruno is completely in the wrong. Taking the law into your own hands is a no-no, but what I think this film did that was interesting was having Bruno kidnap and torture Lemaire AFTER he was in the custody of the police, with overwhelming DNA evidence as to his guilt. Sure, he might have been able to get away with a lesser sentence at trial but I'm thinking not many would show much leniency to child rapist/murderer. Bruno would almost undoubtedly have gotten justice for his daughter, yet he chose to think he knew better than the law and take him before he could be tried by a judge. This makes it hard for the audience to side with him.

Pretty fucking brutal.
The rapist himself even gives a convincing argument against Bruno's actions. During the torture, Lemaire tells Bruno his tale of woe, of being abused as a child. That certainly wasn't enough to get me on his side, but then he said something that was like a smack in the face. He said, "I need help. Don't try to teach me a lesson by introducing more violence into my life. More violence is not going to solve my problem, but only make me worse." Not verbatim, I know, but that was the gist of what he meant. Even if Lemaire was lying about his abuse, I believe he's right. Violence against one's abusers may feel good for the moment, but it doesn't solve anything. But then again, child molesters are not generally known to be rehabilitative. They are the ones most likely to slip. So there we are again, going back and forth on the issue.

Bruno's wife never thinks what he did was right, although that could be her harboring some anger at Bruno for his (supposed) negligence in first noticing their daughter's disappearance. Frankly, I didn't like that bitch. They are both grieving tremendously and yet she always manages to slip in a comment about how he didn't listen to the messages sooner and that it was basically his fault that their daughter was dead. I know it was probably just the hurt talking, but there was a time, during their screaming match on the phone, that I truly believed that she thought it was his fault. And I cannot forgive an accusation like that.

The torture scenes are at times brutal but not overly graphic. I read one review that compared this film to the Saw franchise, The Devil's Rejects and Wolf Creek. Nonsense. Believe me, Seven Days has nothing in common with any of those films. There's a sledgehammer, off-the-cuff surgery, and a severe whipping with a length of chain but it is nothing that most viewers wouldn't be able to handle. It's the words coming from the rapist's mouth and the father's uncontrollable and almost insane grief that will make this film hard for some people to watch.

The ultimate loss.
The most disturbing part of the movie for me, however, had nothing to do with the torture. Before the title credits roll, we have the whole set up of the girl going off to walk around the neighborhood by herself to deliver invitations for her birthday party. She never makes it back. When Bruno is showing the police the route she would have taken, they discover her dead body. Nothing is left to the imagination as the father hunches dumbfounded and grief-stricken at her side. He sees the blood on her thighs and skirt. He sees her underwear around her ankle. And worst of all, he sees - and therefore, we see - the blank stare of death on her blue face, open-eyed and afraid. That was the worst part of the movie to me. The close-up shot of the girl's dead face actually made me shut my eyes and look away.

Another interesting thing this movie brings to the table is Bruno's refusal to speak to Lemaire even while he's torturing him. I was expecting him to be spouting off obscenities and saying things much in the style of Christopher Meloni on Law and Order: SVU. "Do you like raping little girls?" That kind of stuff. But he doesn't say a word to him. He just goes into the room were Lemaire is strung up like a pig carcass and starts the day's work. Does he prefer to let his actions talk? Or can he just not bring himself to say to the man all the things he is feeling about him and what he did? Is it too hard for him to do that?

Detective Mercure.
There is also a subplot dealing with the detective who is trying to track Bruno down (having kidnapped Lemaire right from a police transport van and leaving his own car behind, he really didn't make it all that difficult for them to figure out what happened). This detective, Mercure, lost his wife recently when she was shot in a grocery store robbery. We see him obsessively watching the surveillance footage of her murder in every scene where he is at home. You would think that he would be the most conflicted about the situation, to agree with Bruno or not, yet Mercure goes after Bruno hardcore, insisting that it is Bruno he is trying to save and not Lemaire.

At the end of the film, as it should be, we are given no answer. Bruno is taken into custody himself by police and asked by a reporter if he still thinks vengeance is right. He says no. He is then asked if he regrets what he has done. He says no. I don't think that it's that he hasn't learned anything from his experience and the conflicting opinions around him. There's just no right or wrong answer to the issue. Legally it's wrong, but the heart and soul has more power over any law, and people have a hard time making up their mind on what they really believe. Bruno's dreamy vision of his daughter suggests that he realizes the pointlessness of his actions because she will still be dead, but then his last line of the film tells us that he would probably do it again the same way if he had the chance. Back and forth on the issue again.

Seven Days is shot beautifully. No music whatsoever to get in the way of the emotional journey, and washed out colors bring a very cold and detached feeling to the film. There is no warmth and no relief from the horrors you are witnessing. Shots are well-composed and linger just long enough to really milk the emotion out of the viewer. The acting is superb by all main characters, including the little girl. Two very big thumbs up.


  1. Never heard of this one, it looks intriguing.

  2. You're so right - this is a very discomfiting film with no easy answers, and like you say, there's absolutely no warmth or relief. Not just mindless entertainment...
    Cool write up! :o)