You are probably aware by now of 7 Days, the feature-length debut from Daniel Grou, a director who, until now, had given us little reason to eagerly anticipate him. 7 Days, however, is a masterpiece that will make the world sit up and take notice of what is the perfect portrayal of the psychology of a man. At first glance what we have here is another controversial revenge film, likely dismissed as just another slice of torture porn, however this would be missing the point; in fact, this piece of art would be wasted on those looking for the flamboyant theatrics of that particular subgenre.
The film, based on the novel by screenwriter Patrick Senécal, is the story of Dr. Bruno Hamel, in the throes of the aftermath of the rape and murder of his eight-year-old daughter. 7 Days wastes no time in setting up this premise, the scene introducing the family also establishing the film’s raison d’être, as Jasmine is sent to deliver invites to her birthday party on her own. After she fails to attend school, she is found dead, having been brutally raped. It is Bruno’s intense guilt for not having accompanied Jasmine at her request that drives the story, as he struggles to cope with his grief, as, driven near insane by a blame-laying wife, the doctor systematically sets out to administer justice. Here begins seven days of torturous vengeance.
The film pulls no punches in its depiction of events—right down to the bloodied knickers around Jasmine’s ankle—as Bruno uses his medical expertise to inflict some particularly inventive pain on Anthony Lemaire, the paedophile believed responsible for his daughter’s death. However while these harrowing scenes are certainly compelling, what is of most intrigue is Claude Legault’s portrayal of Bruno. The character, once having begun his revenge, utters barely a word, yet every single emotion is conveyed on his face. In fact, there are two stars in this film: Legault, and his character’s psyche as he embarks on a journey that is impossible to reverse. Praiseworthy performances also come courtesy of the sympathetic police sergeant leading the investigation, himself obsessed with the killing of his wife, and the tortured Anthony, as he turns on the grief-stricken doctor.
7 Days is not easy viewing. There is nothing polished in this film, no saccharine coating to the bitter pill of the story. Every aspect of the film is designed to involve the viewer as witness, from the muted colours representing Bruno’s sheer helplessness and despair, to carefully framed, long-distance shots into rooms as we witness the couple in their grief. Also of note is that the film carries no patronising soundtrack with which to hold the viewer’s hand throughout; this would provide a sense of escapism, and director Grou is far too intelligent a filmmaker to allow that.
The climax may feel somewhat abrupt for some, however it is perfect for this story, as 7 Days has made its point and made it well. Bruno has completed his journey, and any consequences thereafter are simply not relevant. It is rare that a film is delivered to us not having been all tied up with a little bow on top, and Grou proves himself a brave filmmaker in not having succumbed to that temptation. This is essential—albeit uneasy—viewing that will strike a chord with any parent. Simply perfect.
7 Days is available on DVD now