Review: Sleepless Night

Student Critic Jury member Jonathan Glen reviews Sleepless Night at EIFF 2012

Award-winning writer-director Kun-Jae Jang returns with his second feature and continues to display not only promise but a refined talent. Jang has found his voice in simplicity. Sleepless Night is a tender study of love and the intricacies of marriage that revels in quiet contemplation, breaching the walls of reality into dreams only to reinforce the naturalism of the film. This is storytelling of a high order, far removed from the cliché and saccharine that corrupts much of the story of romance.

Jang’s story follows a couple approaching their mid-thirties and beginning to consider having a child. The couple discuss their issues thoroughly and seriously but knowing each other as they do, find humour and joviality in each situation. Theirs is a world full of love for one another and their affection is matched by the tenderness with which Jang frames them. Since their work is repetitive and mundane they live for their time together and the freedom therein, possessing a passion for each other’s company.

They laugh in the shower. They gently wash one another appearing in total bliss. They appreciate the freedom their current life affords them, sharing their free time exclusive of almost all others. They discuss their problems rationally. Difficulties such as money and work are solved with polite discussion. Potentially highly unrealistic, Jang exposes the anxiety beneath by delving into dreamland. Two jarring and fiery arguments are had in the dreams of the couple; portraying how life could be should their diplomatic stance crumble. One dreams of a sharp change in their fortunes and a cataclysmic breakdown while the other is troubled by the slow ruin of their bond. But fortune favours them, the loss and recovery of a cherished bicycle conveys that there can always be hope. The film may be modest but it is certainly never unimaginative.

Sleepless Night conveys clarity and stillness. The serenity of the night-time city in which it is set is hauntingly quiet but embodies the tranquillity of the young couple. A wonderfully accessible piece, only 65 minutes long, sharp writing and focused direction means Jang’s film investigates many attributes of these out of the ordinary people. Taught and remarkable, his unyielding camerawork captures a simple life and makes it important, if only for a little while.

 

Jonathan Glen

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