Bleak Night @ Fantasia

In a South Korean high school for boys, three boys are the best of friends.  Gi-tae (Lee Je-hoon) is dead presumably from unnatural causes (suicide? Though it’s never clarified) and his father (Jo Sung-ha), wanting to understand how his son could have done something like this, meets with several boys who were his friends.  He wants to get to the bottom of it, but no one is talking.

The father first locates Heui-jun or Becky, who actually transferred schools a couple of weeks before Gi-tae’s death.  Becky tells the father that he really doesn’t know anyting, but that he should talk to Dong-yun, as he and Gi-tae have been close since junior high.  The only problem is that Dong-yun has dropped out of school and has dropped off the radar.

What we the viewer finds out is that all was not going well between the three friends.  A misunderstanding escalates into violence/bullying that one of them tries to stop.  It ends with the pacifist being the one who pushes Gi-tae to feel he has no other option but to end his life.

The word-of-mouth on the film was that it was chillingly realistic and insightful.  After watching it I would think that a more realistic description of the film is long and uneventful.

High school bullying is an interesting topic and a very timely one.  This should have made the film an interesting one, but it doesn’t.  It just skims the issue and makes you hang in there for the big payoff that never comes.  I guess director Sung-Hyun Yoon (debut film) is deliberately trying to show that the issue of bullying is rather a gray one and that there is no real bad guy or good guy. The vagueness just rendered the film non-committal.  It doesn’t really succeed in showing that the issue is not black or white; it just wavers.  Pick a side!  It doesn’t and as a result suffers the consequence of my indifference.

The film takes forever to get where it is going and goes through a bunch of chichéd moments of male aggression followed by reconciliation.  I was just worn out not intrigued.  That plus the flashbacks and forwards added about thirty minutes of unneeded moments to the picture.

The scenes between Gi-tae and Dong-yun (Seo Jun-yeong) when the latter is trying to stop Gi-tae from bullying Becky (Park Jeong-min) are at times riveting.  But it was a case of too little too late for me.

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