November 22, 2015

Seven Days: Legally, Not Without My Daughter

When I lived in Baltimore, I had a good friend who said, he cried when he passed the bar exam because he felt he had officially entered a dishonorable profession. That may strike some as histrionic behavior but you could make a case for the corrupt litigator — both in life and on the big screen — as a modern-day archetype. Nowadays, attorneys seem more focused on "winning the case" than on getting the guilty party punished and the innocent set free. Money, power, prestige, revenge, self-respect... these are their motivators. As to truth, honor, and the public good, those sound like anachronisms today. Does anyone invest that much in going to law school and not come out looking to make big bucks? The Law is a rich man's game.

To her credit, Defense Attorney Yu Ji-yeon (Lost's Kim Yunjin) has a noble motive with her current case. She's trying to establish a murderer-rapist's innocence as ransom for her kidnapped daughter (Lee Ra-hye). But even here, the slimy side of the law comes into play, for Yu is defending someone who she doesn't believe. She tries to fool herself for awhile, to trick herself in thinking that maybe he didn't do it but eventually, she's pretty sure he did. And so, with the help of her shady sidekick (Park Hie-sun), she lies, cheats, double-crosses, picks locks, breaks-and-enters, and bends legal statutes in order to exonerate a remorseless monster (Choi Moo-seong) who definitely belongs behind bars. Well, a mother's love knows no bounds, as they say.

A final plot twist puts Yu in her place however: She's confronted by a request to represent someone who acts out as outrageously self-righteously as she has (and for a similar reason). Can she defend such behavior? The question isn't answered in Seven Days. But writer-director Won Shin-yeon knows it's easier to forgive our own transgressions than those of others. Sometimes, we need a little cash to turn it into a job.

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