Film Review: Seven Years of Night

A dark, intriguing premise has little chance of becoming a riveting noir, given its obtuse and overly labyrinthine treatment.
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The death of a little girl haunts a few generations of family, including the girl's remorseful, abusive father, Young-je (Jang Dong-gun). She was running away from him when she was hit by a car driven by Hyun-su (Ryoo Seung-ryong). Drunk and panicky, Hyun-su threw her body into a lake dominated by a huge dam that he has just been hired to oversee—to the relief of his wife, who has bought a new condo they cannot afford. Seven years go by, in which Hyun-su is a drunken mess wracked by guilt and about to face execution, while his son bitterly resents him for ruining his life. All the while, Young-je seethes with a desire to wreak a horrible revenge upon Hyun-su.

Directed by Choo Chang-min, who adapted his script from a novel by Jung Yoo-jung, Seven Years of Night strives to be the darkest modern thriller on record, filled with violence including unsettling scenes of child abuse and domestic bickering between Hyun-su and his overly ambitious wife that ends in vicious blows. The premise is powerful, but the overly complex flashback style with which it is rendered is unnecessarily confusing, keeping the viewer from total immersion.

Visually, the film is quite striking, making full use of the impressively large lake and dam, and the velvety blacks within blacks of the dominant nighttime scenes contribute to its noir cred. Seven Years is afflicted, however, by one of those generic yet ponderous and obvious music scores proliferating in today’s Korean movies, which thunderously cues you into every emotional reaction you are meant to be feeling.

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