7 Days - Review
Review by Jack Foley
DANIEL Grou’s intensely disturbing 7 Days drew a strong response from this year’s Sundance Film Festival owing to the extreme nature of its content.
Some of the subsequent PR has been keen to point out how the torture scenes included ‘make Saw look like kids’ stuff’, but that’s cheapening it and doing the material a disservice.
That said, the morality of Grou’s film remains questionable, given that the director is essentially inviting viewers to immerse ourselves in a film based around the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl and her father’s subsequent revenge.
Any film involving crimes against children is difficult to watch, whether it’s Clint Eastwood’s Changeling or Law Abiding Citizen. But Grou’s approach is to be as matter of fact, unflinching and explicit as possible.
To create a heightened sense of realism, he refrains from adopting a soundtrack and delivers much of the violence in raw, bloody close-up. The ensuing 107 minutes are extremely uncomfortable to watch, as they should be, and morally dubious on all sorts of levels.
The plot is simply set-up before the opening credits have even rolled. Middle-aged surgeon Bruno (Claude Legault) and his wife Sylvie (Fanny Mallette) find their lives shattered when their eight-year-old daughter, Jasmine (Rose-Marie Coallier) is raped and murdered.
When he police quickly arrest local man Anthony Lemaire (Martin Dubreuil) for the crime, Bruno concocts to kidnap the suspect en route to court and take him to a remote location to make him pay for his crimes.
He then phones the police and his wife to say that he plans to torture and then kill Anthony over the next seven days, before then handing himself in.
The ensuing film then shifts between Bruno’s revenge and the efforts of a sympathetic police chief (Remy Girard) to find him before it’s too late to save either man.
As emotionally complex as 7 Days sounds (and is), it’s not the film a lot of people might be expecting. It’s an angry film that places the revenge inflicted by Bruno firmly centre-stage, while painstakingly watching as it takes its effect on the mind of its perpetrator.
As such, Legault delivers a near faultless performance of rage-driven torment, tempered with regret and doubt that really makes the film worth watching, while Girard is equally compelling as the cop on his trail.
But by focusing too heavily on the violence, Grou loses touch with two of the film’s key characters: particularly Mallette’s equally distraught wife, Sylvie, whose grief and anger isn’t really given the screen time it merits.
Scenes between Bruno and Sylvie are kept all too brief (snatched phone calls) and would have given the film a greater level of complexity had they been further encouraged, especially as husband and wife are at odds with each other over Bruno’s actions and their own complicity in Jasmine’s initial disappearance.
As the subject of the torture, Dubreuil is largely left to scream and go through the motions… never being allowed to explore the driving force behind his character (whether pure evil or emotionally disturbed).
Indeed, Grou’s decision to deliver much of the violence in cold, unflinching close-up almost begs the question, late on, of who the real monster is… an issue that this reviewer found particularly troubling given the nature of the crime. A late sequence involving the mother of another of Dubreuil’s victims also feels ill-judged.
The overall impression, therefore, is that 7 Days is gripping, but only morbidly so. The emotional complexity inherent in films such as Changeling and Mystic River have been replaced by the director’s need to go for the extreme.
It’s difficult to know, therefore, who 7 Days is aimed at, given that it remains too intelligent and cerebral for the gore community, and a little too extreme for those who’d rather immerse themselves in the complex emotions of the piece.
Grou has alluded to the films of Michael Haneke and Lars von Trier as possible inspirations, and there’s certainly the same detached feeling you get from 7 Days as accompanies the likes of Funny Games or The White Ribbon.
But no matter what its merits on a technical or performance basis, it’s almost impossible to recommend 7 Days given its subject matter. It’s a blunt instrument, designed to distress, that will almost certainly leave you cold and drained afterwards. If that was Grou’s sole aim, then he succeeds emphatically.
In French, with subtitles
Running time: 107mins
UK DVD Release: August 23, 2010