7 Days, 2021.
Directed by Roshan Sethi.
Starring Geraldine Viswanathan, Karan Soni, Gita Reddy, Zenobia Shroff and Mark Duplass.
After being set up by their parents, a man and a woman on a date are forced to isolate together when the COVID-19 pandemic strikes.
We’re going to see a lot of films like 7 Days in the next year or so. The impact of COVID-19 on all of our lives has been so transformative that cinema simply has to confront it. This is especially true given the pandemic provides a perfect excuse for one of the movie world’s most beloved premises – the odd couple forced to coexist, who inevitably fall in love.
In this case, middle-class Indian-American guy Ravi (Karan Soni) has been set up on a date by his parents with Rita (Geraldine Viswanathan). Arranged marriage, it seems, has gone the way of everything else and now takes place via dating apps, in which parents submit profiles extolling the virtues of their children – “I have three sons, and Ravi is the best one”, for example. During an excruciating first date in a dried out reservoir, the COVID-19 pandemic hits and circumstances force the duo to isolate in Rita’s home.
Viswanathan is a comedic force of nature, having done tremendous work in Blockers and The Broken Hearts Gallery in recent years. Rita is a perfect role for her, with the character’s persona as a traditional woman in search of an ideal husband disintegrating once she’s in her own home. She’s drinking beer, munching fried chicken and engaging in phone sex with a married man known only as “Daddy” (voiced by Mark Duplass). Rita makes a half-hearted attempt to hide this from Ravi initially, but it doesn’t seem she’s really that bothered about what he knows.
The film works well in its early going, with clear comic chemistry between the two leads and a dynamic which is, refreshingly, more nuanced than the typical premise of the odd couple hating each other. Soni – who co-wrote the script with director Roshan Sethi – does a great job of conveying Ravi’s baffled exasperation, as well as the flailing of a man trying very hard to be a feminist while proving unable to get it right.
It’s a script packed with sparky comedic exchanges, albeit of the formulaic kind we’ve seen before. There are awkward sexual dreams, moments of unusual near-intimacy and an inevitable scene in which the teetotal Ravi drinks alcohol and makes a fool of himself. There’s nothing we haven’t seen before, albeit there’s something of a 2020 edge to proceedings given the frequent use of Zoom calls as Ravi continues to date other women chosen by his parents – with Rita assisting via text message, like a 21st century Cyrano without the comedy nose.
The comedic energy gets the movie so far, but it then chooses to take a baffling left-turn into seriousness in the final third. There’s something desperately mawkish and uncomfortable about the way the movie uses the still-raw, and indeed ongoing, global health crisis as a lever to push these two characters into their inevitable romantic bond. The movie simply isn’t strong enough to sustain its rear-wheel skid into high-stakes drama.
When the movie ends – with a montage of real couples discussing their arranged marriages – there’s a sense that Ravi and Rita are only at the start of their story, with the more interesting and knotty drama ahead of them. While the pandemic setting provides the movie with an excuse for its premise, it also overwhelms and subsumes the potentially intriguing concept of exploring how arranged marriages work in the modern world.
Despite the strength of the two leads and the witty script, 7 Days doesn’t commit to its ideas and, as a result, feels utterly disposable. If, as we all hope, this pandemic soon becomes a distant memory, films like this will go down the vortex with it.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.