Patrick Gamble

EIFF 2012: ‘Sleepless Night’ review

★★★★☆

Sleepless Night (Jam-mot deun-eun bam, 2012) is the eagerly-anticipated sophomore feature from South Korean director Jang Kun-Jae, a heart-warming study of how love can overcome the mundane rigours of everyday life. Facing numerous economic difficulties and surviving just above the bread line, a middle aged married couple (played by Ju Ryoung Kim & Soo-hyeon Kim), spend their evenings contemplating whether the time is right for them to finally have a baby.

The couple witness friends and strangers struggling to juggle the myriad of pressures a child can inflict upon a couple, yet understand that time is running out for them to make a decision. Despite their lives consisting of mundane jobs and frugal social activities this happily married couple are not entirely ready to sacrifice their freedom, yet both seem keen to add to their miniature family dynamic. Spread over the course of a few uneventful days they start a continuous dialogue of sensibly family planning whilst continuing with their everyday lives.

This simple yet intimate portrait of a devoted couple encroaching on a serious cross roads of their lives is a fascinatingly natural depiction of real love. Epitomising the invisible bonds that hold a relationship together, Kun-Jae has not only produced a sensitive portrait of married life but a thought provoking study of the complexities which accompany parenthood.

Combing the subdued yet engaging performances of his central protagonists with an organically evolving script riddled with deft touches of humour and compassion, Sleepless Night whisks you away into its simple domestic dynamic and grips you from the very start. Successfully immersing us into this insular world, Kun-Jae’s film has the feel of carefully constructed chamber piece played out within the confines of a caring relationship – building a noticeable degree of swiftly disregarded on-screen tension which lets us the audience decide the suitability of these sensibly cautious potential parents.

Running only slightly over the 60-minute mark, Sleepless Night never overstays its welcome and leaves you desperate for more. Allowing the audience the opportunity to enter the man-made idyllic universe inhabited by the film’s central pair, Sleepless Night develops into a charming and utterly adorable film which takes the mundane and ordinary routines of a married couples and turns them into something totally compelling and absorbing.

The 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival takes place from 20 June-1 July, 2012. For more of our EIFF 2012 coverage, simply follow this link.

Patrick Gamble