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Three best friends, Ki-tae, Dong-yoon, and Hee-june; they thought their friendship would last forever. A few tiny cracks of distrust start to develop among these best friends. Ki-tae and Hee-june are suddenly filled with misunderstanding and hated, and Ki-tae starts to use violence against Hee-june. When Dong-yoon finds out about Ki-tae's behavior toward Hee-june, he tries to stop Ki-tae but fails. Instead, what started out as little doubts, push these three boys into the point of no return. Written by
'Bleak Night' is a remarkable movie. Not only does it delve into highly emotionally charged territory without going into theatrics as it does so through clever shooting techniques that lend it a very true to life feel.
The plot kicks off with a bereaved father looking for answers, his teenage son having committed suicide. What follows are a series of interviews with the boy's friends interwoven with flashbacks so that the narrative progresses on two levels: the present and the past. Here lies one of the strengths of 'Bleak Nights', the natural way in which the flashbacks are introduced. Memories are spliced into the story without actually breaking the narrative proper even as the highlight the changes that the tragic event had on everyone involved.
This is an environment where violence seems underneath every interaction, an all boys high school bordering on the delinquent side. And yet there are light hearted moments of daily happiness such and playing mock baseball at the rail-track or going to the beach with friends. These interludes serve as contrast to the overall effect of bleakness thus giving it another dimension.
The dead boy is something of a wannabe gangster. He is the leader of a group of boys and has no qualms bullying even friends. More than just violent he seems to be emotionally unstable, swinging between bouts of uncalled for aggression to contrite admissions of guilt that again result in more and even increased violence. It is a hopeless cycle that little by little costs him all of his friends and results in utter alienation.
There are hints that the tension behind this angst may be denial over homosexual tendencies but like most things the movie does more hinting than outright stating. Events are revisited from different points of view so that the viewer is treated to a multiple perspective that yet does not reveal everything.
The shots are mostly closeups or inserted so that the characters seem to be just at hand. It creates a sense of partnership with the viewers as if we too were inside the screen instead of merely witnessing it all unfold. There is a certain voyeuristic quality but it is elevated by this sincere approach. The movie remains highly realistic and as such believable by its being so understated.
All this could only be achieved with an excellent cast and no-one disappoints in this respect. From the boy himself, to his father and his former friends, all are credible in their respective roles. Particularly interesting is the ex-best friend whose reaction to betrayal become a turning point of sorts. It is through the interactions with him that we learn that there was more to the dead boy than a troublemaker, that he understands all too well that such behavior is necessary to stand atop the school hierarchy and yet how little it matters in the grand scheme of things for come graduation it will all be over and the underlings so faithful the day before will disappear.
It captures a paradox that is very true of high school life, it both seems to go on forever and yet it is gone in an instant. The boys are all trapped in this kind of warped time and trapped even more by their unwillingness to face up to what happened.
While not long the movie manages to tackle many issues, such as the breakdown of family ties, the catastrophic importance attached to reputation and how they can ruin someone's life in an all too literal sense, the failure of the education system to provide guidance to youths. These are weighty themes conveyed through the characters so that 'Bleak Night' never loses sight of the fact that these are issues that affect real people.
Despite the fact that the conclusion is known beforehand- the boy has killed himself- the end still packs a punch. By gathering all of the resources that make 'Bleak Night' so exceptional, the excellent acting, the splicing in of always relevant flashback scenes, the camera's approach that puts the viewer on the same level as the characters; the final scene offers us a dialogue that will never happen but that could have corrected everything if it had.
There are no easy solutions in this movie. The tone remains one of sadness and regret through and through. This is not a story of redemption although it may be there at the very end of the line, it does not need to be: 'Bleak Night' is about despair, guilt and ultimately coming to terms with how one's actions impact others. And in that it achieves nothing short of brilliance.
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