Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent, this week we’re heading to…
Revenge films have been a genre unto themselves for quite some time, and while the seventies and eighties were probably the high point in quantity the past decade has seen some of the best when it comes to quality. In addition to some of the recent films actually being better than the older they’ve also often been more brutal and elaborate. The first thirty minutes of Law Abiding Citizen for example features two scenes of painfully graphic revenge being exacted on captive villains.
Imagine a film where that first thirty minutes of crime and punishment was spread throughout the whole feature. Excruciating torture interspersed between unrelenting drama and sadness. Now imagine the toll it takes on the torturer who starts the film as a loving father and husband. Welcome to 7 Days.
Bruno Hamel (Claude Legault) is a happily married surgeon with a beautiful eight year old little girl. The daughter disappears one morning on the way to school and is later found raped and murdered. A man named Anthony Lemaire (Martin Dubreuil) is arrested for the crime, and proper justice appears to be forthcoming. But Hamel finds himself in a downward spiral of depression and anger, and soon he’s desiring a far rawer form of justice. He orchestrates a daring kidnapping and extricates Lemaire from police custody before taking him to a remote cabin, strapping him down, and exacting his seven days of revenge with a surgeon’s precision and a father’s rage.
The simple concept behind the film is, by its very nature, guaranteed to elicit strong emotions from the audience. A raped and murdered child and a distraught father are a potent combination for the viewers’ own innate desires for payback and vengeance, but director Daniel Grou and writer Patrick Senécal take things a few steps further. First and foremost is the graphic visual of the dead girl. We see her lifeless body, bloodied and scratched, underpants around her ankle, and it devastates. Hamel, kneeling over his dead child and in more pain than most of us could fathom, forces us to join in his wrath. The second non-narrative detail that forges an intimate connection to the events is the lack of a musical score. There are no audio cues to tell the viewer what to feel or when to feel it because they’re just not needed here.
While Hamel’s world consists of acts of torture and a growing psychosis, his wife retreats to a vacuum. She falls to the background of both the film and her husband’s mind, but in her place enters Detective Mercure (Rémy Girard). He’s working and hoping to find Hamel before the seven day plan is complete, and he’s uniquely suited to the emotional task at hand. His nights are spent watching a grainy video from a gas station security camera that shows a female customer being shot and killed during a robbery. He watches it on a continuous loop. “Why should we bust our asses to save a guy who murders little girls?” asks one of his fellow detectives. “It’s not Lemaire I want to save,” is his telling reply.
The acting here is above average for the genre, especially from the two leads. Legault’s intensely emotional suffering burns through his every expression and action, and he takes the viewer along for the very unpleasant ride from grief to rage to absolute cruelty and beyond. Equally palpable, perhaps even more so, is the pain felt by Lemaire. He’s subjected to humiliation and unimaginable tortures ranging from chain beatings to having his colon surgically… redirected. Dubreuil gives such a visceral performance that, while viewers won’t pause to pity the suspected murderer and pedophile, they may be forced to question their own vicarious thirst for revenge.
This is far from the typical examples of the genre and lacks the bombastic action of a Death Penalty or the stylistic presentation of an Oldboy. Instead, 7 Days exists as more of a drama with extreme violence. The movie is explicit without being exploitative, and it’s sincere in its graphic depictions. The fact that the rigorous and yes, torturous journey doesn’t end up exactly where the genre tells you it will is a testament to Grou’s dedication to telling an emotional story first and a revenge tale second.
7 Days is available on R2 DVD from E1 Entertainment in the UK. Buy it from AmazonUK.
The Upside: Honest and emotional; wonderfully acted in difficult scenarios; viewers move from vengeful to sorrowful alongside the distraught father; refuses to go where the genre often demands
The Downside: Pacing and content don’t lend themselves towards multiple viewings; ending is unexpected but not necessarily satisfying