IT’S 10 PM. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR CHILDREN ARE?
The English title of the film is called Bleak Night, however The Keeper is a more accurate translation of 파수꾼 (Pa Soo Ggoon) which literally means a lookout or guard. The film starts with the death of a high school student, Gi tae (Lee Je Hoon), and a father in mourning (Jo Sung Ha) searching for reasons behind his son’s suicide. He goes around to Gi tae’s two best friends: Hee Joon (Park Jung Min) and Dong Yoon (Seo Joon Young).
This is Director Yoon Sung Hyun’s film academy graduation project. Director Yoon casted three young actors who convincingly portrayed three immature, delinquent teenagers. The movie reminds me of the movie Bully for the type of story it is as well as the young talent starring in it. As an adult, there is an impenetrable wall that is the world of teenagers. Teenagers are as tight-lipped about their circle as prison gang members and the glimpse of these boys’ world wasn’t clichéd or overdone. It was simply honest.
Gi tae’s father is our catalyst as his quest introduces us to the secret world of these band of brothers. However, we are privy to information that the father doesn’t get access to as we get to see flashbacks which shows the relationships of the boys. Jo Sung Ha’s character is weaved through the narrative as the soft-spoken, grieving father who contrasts greatly with the Hee Joon and Dong Yoon point of view insights into his alpha-male son, Gi tae. We never see an interaction between father and son.
To me, that felt intentional as the point of the film is to give us an idea of what may have lead to the boy’s death and to show how detached the father is from this world. Similarly Hee Joon tells Gi tae’s father in the film: “The image of your son with you and the image of him with his friends are very different.” I think this is where I find the title of the film to be so significant as the conversations with teens don’t seem to reveal much to the father. Despite the fallout of the friendship and a mourning father’s request, in a way, they are still protecting each other and the world they transiently residing in.
The film was the official 2010 selection of the Busan Film Festival. However, I could see why the film couldn’t go much farther than that. The film can be a little confusing at times as it goes back and forth between the past and the present. The ending is also a little vague and while I don’t think the film required a definitive ending, I didn’t even realize the film was over because well… it just didn’t feel like it was over. Despite that, the film is a fascinating character study.