Friday, November 4, 2016

bleak night (2011)

When Bleak Night played the Korean Cultural Service screenings back in 2012 Mondocurry reviewed the film. Recently I stumbled upon my take on the film and I'm posting it now.

Yoon Sung-Hyun's award winning student film (apparently this is his final project, though to be honest most professional films are not this well made and well acted) is a dark look at the life of a teen that is some where past idealized angst into real pain.

The film is structured like a mystery, but truth be told it's only window dressing. The plot has a troubled father trying to find out what happened to his son who took his own life. His quest to find answers is only the thing that sets things in motion.

There are no real answers only the diffuclt emotional life of a teenager. There is friendship and bullying, efforts to fit in, to find one's place and to desperately hold on to something and not fall into a pit of pain. It will leave you wondering why we choose the friends we do and why do we stay with them when things so south, is it because we like these people or simply that we don't want to be alone (it a point that I noticed in one review that talked about it specifically in regard to this movie and with teens, but for me it's a larger question).

As the father goes on his quest for answers we get jumbled bits of his sons story. Some relate to what the people he is speaking with are telling him. Some are simply revealed unbidden.

What drove Becky to suicide? Life. Uncertainty and interacting with the other students, some of whom bullied him, pushed him towards his premature end.

Its a dark story, and it's one that hit several uncomfortable bumps for me. As someone said in reviewing the film the emotion here is much more intense then angst. This is the real emotion that one feels as a put upon teen. Several people who reviewed the film have said, and I agree, that the film took them back to the point where they were teenagers having trouble getting by in the world.

I suspect that director Yoon Sung-Hyun, being close in age to his characters helped make it all the more real. I would suspect, though I could be wrong, that some of this is autobiographical. I say this because he gets things so right on target that it's scary. How on target I had to turn off the screener I used for this review because it was taking me back to a place I didn't want to go to.

While I can wax poetic about the strength of the emotional truths in this film and about the technical aspects and acting in the film I do have to say that I do have some trouble with the narrative. While the use of the father's quest as a framework allowed the film to big deep at emotional truths by freeing up notions of linear narrative, the film suffers because details are left out. There are gaps where we don't know what happened or we get no clues as to what may lie behind what happens. For example there is sense that perhaps there is a hint of uncertain sexuality kicking around, there are some looks and actions as being the result of attraction between our male leads, but that may not be so. I know that sometimes intensity is just intensity and the lack of a girlfriend means nothing but awkwardness with the opposite sex, or the object of our affection is with someone else.

Narrative bumps aside this is a very good, very tough film. I'm guessing that if you thought you were an emotional mess in high school some part of this film will affect you, possibly in not the most pleasant of ways. It is one of the most emotionally honest films you're likely to see.


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