Review: ‘Seven Years of Night’ is a strained specimen of Korean noir


Director Choo Chang-min’s adaptation of Jeong You-jeong’s novel “Seven Years of Night” offers a ponderous take on a classic noir premise. Though well-acted and visually striking, the film’s missing some of the punchiness that makes these kinds of tragic crime stories hit hard.

What “Seven Years of Night” does have going for it is a solid understanding of noir’s dominant theme: how fate and circumstance expose human weakness. Ryu Seung-ryong plays Hyun-su, a careless coward who accidentally kills a young girl with his car, then tries to cover it up. Jang Dong-gun plays Young-je, the victim’s father, who’s determined to punish the killer even though he himself was a terrible dad when his child was alive.

The film bounces around in its timeline quite a bit, which is confusing early on, because it misleads viewers into thinking of the story as a big puzzle they have to solve. Choo gets on firmer ground later, once Young-je abducts Hyun-su and explains his diabolical plan of revenge. Neither man has any real moral high ground, and so their conversations quickly descend into petty cruelty and self-pity.


Nevertheless, even though the characters are sharply defined, “Seven Years of Night” is so oppressively somber that it’s hard to handle at times — even when it’s working. This is a long, miserable wallow, making audiences feel every dark minute of its title.


‘Seven Years of Night’

(In Korean with English subtitles)

Not rated

Running time: 2 hours, 3 minutes

Playing: CGV Cinemas, Los Angeles