7DaysThe third film adaptation of the work of Quebec’s Patrick Senecal (and the first to achieve a legitimate US release), 7 DAYS is a provocative, multi-faceted study of a father’s revenge on the man who killed his daughter. Violent it is, but also thoughtful and artful—though never especially arty.

Previous films based on the writing of Patrick Senecal (none of which has been translated into English as of yet) include EVIL WORDS and 5150 ELM’S WAY. 7 DAYS, or LES SEPT JOURS DU TALION, rived in 2009, and made a minor splash at the following year’s Sundance Film Festival. It was the feature directorial debut of Quebec TV veteran Daniel Grou, or as he’s credited here, Podz.

Bruno Hemel is a well-off doctor whose life is shattered when the defiled corpse of his young daughter is discovered. Four days later a young architect named Lemaire is arrested for the murder. Deciding this punishment is insufficient, Bruno kidnaps Lemaire as he’s in transit to prison and takes him back to a secluded cabin for a seven day orgy of torture.

Bruno is extremely cavalier in his actions, and so immediately attracts the attention of the police. One of the investigating officers is himself traumatized by the murder of a loved one, specifically the man’s wife, who was shot in a hold-up. This bonds him and Bruno somewhat, but doesn’t dissuade the latter from carrying out his gruesome handiwork on Lemaire.

Bruno subjects his captive to beatings and strangulation before moving on to more imaginative torments inspired by Bruno’s medical training (such as rewiring Lemaire’s digestive tract sans anesthesia). Lemaire initially claims he’s falsely accused of defiling Bruno’s daughter but quickly changes his tune, and even takes to bragging about his crimes.

In the meantime Bruno becomes a minor folk hero, with various media pundits proclaiming the righteousness of his actions. One person who believes otherwise is a woman whose own child was killed by Lemaire; the woman claims in a TV interview that Bruno would be better off getting on with his life and putting Lemaire’s crimes out of his mind. This is too much for Bruno, who kidnaps the woman and forces her to confront Lemaire in the flesh. She refuses to be swayed from her stance, and so Bruno knocks her out and deposits her at the side of a road–where she wakes up and alerts police to Bruno’s whereabouts.

Daniel Grou, or Podz, has created a surprisingly stately and sophisticated film whose measured and deliberate filmmaking somewhat offsets the graphic content. There’s no music in the film, which succeeds in building a fair amount of suspense and unease without the sort of gratuitous shock effects you might expect. The subject matter may recall grue fests like HOSTEL or THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, but 7 DAYS is actually closer to the artful unpleasantness of European filmmakers like Michael Haneke and Roman Polanski, although the film, again contrary to expectation, is never pretentious or lacking in narrative drive.

The script by Patrick Senecal isn’t as maniacally inventive as those of the previous films adapted from his work, but makes up for it in sheer provocation. You can be sure that every conceivable moral quandary pertaining to vigilante justice is aired here, which obviously doesn’t make for an especially uplifting or reassuring viewing experience.

In the lead role Claude Legault is award-worthy, while Martin Dubreil delivers what is arguably the bravest performance of 2010 as the child molesting object of Legault’s vengeance—his acting, however, is difficult to judge, as he spends most of the film bound and gagged!

Vital Statistics

Alliance Vivafilm/IFC Films

Director: Podz (Daniel Grou)
Producer: Nicole Robert
Screenplay: Patrick Senecal
(Based on a novel by Senecal)
Cinematography: Bernard Couture
Editing: Valerie Heroux
Cast: Claude Legault, Fanny Mallette, Martin Dubreuil, Remy Girard, Rose-Marie Coallier, Alexandre Goyette, Dominique Quesnel, Pascale Delhaes