REVIEW: DVD Release: 7 Days

Film: 7 Days
Release date: 23rd August 2010
Certificate: 18
Running time: 106 mins
Director: Daniel Grou
Starring: Rémy Girard, Claude Legault, Fanny Mallette, Martin Dubreuil, Rose-Marie Coallier
Genre: Drama/Horror/Thriller
Studio: E1
Format: DVD
Country: Canada

Daniel Drou plays Devil’s advocate as he directs the brutal, yet powerful French-Canadian film 7 Days (original title Les Sept Jours Du Talion, literally translated as 7 Days Of Retaliation), a story based on a novel by Patrick Senécal (who also wrote the screenplay) of a man who sinks deeper and deeper into despair as he takes the law into his own hands and comes face-to-face with the ‘monster’ who raped and murdered his only child.

Bruno Hemel (Claude Legault) is a well-mannered, highly respected and successful surgeon who lives with his wife Sylvie (Fanny Mallette) and their beloved daughter Jasmine (Rose-Marie Coallier) in a quiet suburban neighbourhood in Quebec, Canada.

The day starts with the happy family all enjoying breakfast together at the kitchen table. Jasmine wants her father to help her deliver birthday invitations to the homes of her friends before she goes to school. But after an all-night operation at the hospital, Bruno is too tired to escort her, and her mother doesn’t have the time to help either. Disappointed, Jasmine decides that she will deliver the invitations after lunch and is lovingly sent off to school.

As Jasmine heads off, Sylvie persuades an unenthusiastic and weary Bruno to partake in some morning lovemaking before she leaves for work. Sometime after, he awakes to an empty house and begins working on his laptop whilst drinking a bottle of beer, but a knock at the door brings the realisation that Jasmine never made it to school and has gone missing. The police are called, and with Bruno assisting them, a hunt for the young girl begins.

The discovery of her abused and murdered bloody body is the beginning of Bruno’s spiral into rage, darkness and misery which leads to the kidnapping of the murderer, Anthony Lemaire (Martin Dubreuil), and seven days of unimaginable torture which climaxes on, what would have been, his daughter’s ninth birthday…

7 Days is an intense, violent, thought-provoking film that forces us to question our beliefs on controversial matters such as vigilantism, human-rights and the criminal justice system. But it goes far deeper than that, it gets to the very soul of a man whose life has sunk to the dark depths of desolation, where he lives with the excruciating pain of guilt, which he has bestowed upon himself for failing to save the life of his daughter. Therefore, the question that is being implied is whether the punishment Bruno inflicts upon his daughter’s murderer is inhumane or justified?

The film is shot at a steady pace, allowing the tension to build gradually, drawing us further and further into Bruno’s darkened world. Drou is cautious and takes his time directing the soft, slow camera movements, deciding against fancy camera angles and quick editing. The lack of music throughout the film only adds to the overall realism - in fact, any composition used would only disturb the intense atmospheric scenes.

High praise must certainly go to Legault for his portrayal as the vengeful father, and Mallette, who plays his emotionally shattered grieving wife – two very strong and convincing performances. Respect should also be given to Dubreuil, not because he gave a powerful performance, because he didn’t, his character didn’t call for it, but for the fact that he had to play a pathetic paedophile fully naked strapped to a torture device for almost every scene he was in – a role that could easily be humiliating for many actors.

Keeping the dialogue to a minimum was a smart move, too, but there are moments, such as when Bruno gives his captive a plate of food, where it feels we are being spoon feed (no pun intended!). We know it’s not done out of compassion, we know the food is being given to him to keep him alive, so he can suffer more punishment, we don’t need to have Dubreuil’s character say it. And also, having Bruno kidnap the mother of another victim of the murderer, and forcing her to face him after she has proclaimed on TV that she has blanked him out of her mind – an announcement that disgusted Bruno – is unnecessary and even unrealistic.

To pigeonhole 7 Days solely in the horror genre would do it an injustice, and would remove the seriousness of the theme, and what Drou is trying to convey - and it may actually draw in the wrong crowd. And yet, some of the violence is so extreme it may turn many filmgoers, who don’t have the stomach for it, away.

Thus, sitting through 7 Days is no easy task; even the hardest of the hardened will find some of the graphic torture scenes a little challenging to sit through – if they don’t, they probably need to question themselves, which is the whole point of the film anyway. But no scene is more disturbing than that of the lifeless body of murdered Jasmine, an image that is all too real, and an image that no-one should ever have to see in real life.

7 Days is a gripping, hard-hitting, gut-wrenching film that will unapologetically have you questioning your moral values - and your endurance for ultra-violent scenes. SLP

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