I finally saw the movie, “Bleak Night” in Greenbelt 3 Cinema 3 last Thursday. It had been selected as part of the Cinemalaya Focus Asia Showcase for this year. I haven’t been left speechless by a movie for some time – and this one left me helplessly trying to clap my hands rigid with amazement while alone in a dark cinema.
This frighteningly realistic movie revolves around a high school suicide. Three friends are entangled in this death: the school bully who ends up taking his life, his childhood bestfriend who suddenly disappears without even attending his funeral, and their quiet friend who moved away right before the suicide.
The father of the dead friend tries to reconnect with his son’s two friends to discover the truth behind the suicide. But in the end, what he and the audience discovers is that there is no clear-cut wrongdoer or victim in this story. As it is in relationships, shit happens and people get caught when it hits the fan. So there are no true protagonists or antagonists in this movie — just people.
This incredibly riveting plot is brought to life by the fascinating performances of the main cast. In a way, performance seems like the wrong word because they don’t just act, they become whoever their characters are. Lee Je-Hoon plays the school bully who commits suicide, Seo Joon-Young plays his childhood buddy, and Park Jung-Min plays their reserved friend. Except for the father played brilliantly by Jo Sung-Ha, this cast is made up of relative newbies. So it’s totally amazing how each of them made their character captivating in a way that makes you think that they are real people who you could have been friends with.
The realism that pervades the film is not just limited to the acting of the cast but also to the raw and unvarnished script. No poetic lyricism or romanticism ever sneaks into the dialogue – just pure unadulterated talk between people. So you get a lot of swearing, stupid jokes, and even insignificant nothings.
Adding to this is the powerful cinematography that makes you feel like you are just there in the scene watching or interacting with the characters. The handheld camera work gives a dynamic feel to the movie that perfectly complements its unique story-telling.
For this is a movie where linear narratives are thrown out of the window in favor of a more random yet fresh approach to doing flashbacks. By blurring the past and the present, it absolutely captures the feeling of each memory in a way unseen in many works of today that try to explain what is with what was.
The young director Yoon Sung-Hyun is definitely someone to look out for. His mind-blowing vision goes beyond simply telling a beautiful story. He makes you experience and live it — tears, bruises, and scars included. No 3D glasses necessary.