“7 Days”, which won the Best First Feature award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards a few months ago, is a lightweight human comedy about two very different people matched and then stuck together for several days. As one of recent films set in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic era, the movie will often come close to you if you have ever been affected by the pandemic one way or another (Full Disclosure: I have recently), and you will appreciate how it deftly balanced between humor and gravitas along with its two lead performers within its limited main background.
As reflected by the opening montage consisting of several real-life Indian American couples, the movie is specific in terms of story and characters right from the beginning. Thanks to the diligent efforts of their respective mothers on an online matchmaking site, Ravi (Karan Soni) and Rita (Geraldine Viswanathan) come to have an introductory meeting between them, but both of them feel rather awkward for good reasons. Besides being total strangers, they come to see more of how much they are different from each other as talking more with each other, and the spot chosen for their little private meeting does not help the situation much because it does not feel romantic or lyrical at all.
It seems that all they can do now is courteously parting their ways some time later, but then their smartphones receive a series of emergency public notices. It is March 2020, and millions of American people are soon subjected to a nationwide lockdown as the COVID-19 virus is exponentially spreading throughout the country. At first, Ravi tries to go back to his residence as soon as possible, but then he has no choice but to stay in Rita’s nearby residence for one night, and Rita has no problem with that at all.
However, Ravi and Rita come to stay together in Rita’s residence much longer than expected as the lockdown is continued, and they get to know each other much more than they wished. For example, Ravi is your average nerdy researcher working in a local university, and he comes to confide to Rita a lot about how lonely he has been for years – and how desperate he has been about finding someone who can live with him as his spouse. In case of Rita, it turns out that she is not that honest about herself compared to Ravi, and we often get amused as Ravi comes to discover many things Rita is not willing to tell him from the beginning.
Reminded again and again of their personal differences, Ravi and Rita naturally choose to draw the line between them, but they also cannot help but interact more with each other because, well, they have only each other for now. While Rita tells Ravi about how he should be a bit more spontaneous in his repetitive daily life, Ravi finds himself caring about Rita’s rather messy private matter, and the gradual development of certain feelings between them becomes evident to us as time slowly goes by.
During its last act, the movie becomes a little more serious as the ongoing pandemic comes quite close to Rita and Ravi, who consequently depend on each other more than before. While steadily handling the story and characters with wit and humor, Director/co-writer Roshan Sethi did a competent job of conveying to us the increasing sense of suffocation and anxiety between Rita and Ravi, and that took me back to how I sometimes became anxious and frustrated during the 7-day lockdown period caused by my unfortunate COVID-19 infection in last month. I was lucky not to suffer a lot physically from that infection, but being isolated in my little residence for several days in row was not so pleasant at all, and I certainly do not want to experience that again.
Because it is basically a two-hander, the movie relies a lot on its two main performers, who dexterously pull and push each other as required by their characters’ rocky relationship development along the story. Karan Soni, who also wrote the screenplay by Sethi, is no stranger to looking timid and nerdy as shown from “Deadpool” (2016) and its following 2018 sequel, and he is alternatively funny and poignant as he brings more human depth to his seemingly plain character. On the opposite, Geraldine Viswanathan, who has been more notable since she appeared in “Blockers” (2018), is sweet and charming as a nice lass with some human foibles, and her effortless comic chemistry with Soni on the screen constantly amuses and delights enough to hold our attention to the expected finale.
In case of several supporting cast members in the film, they bring some extra humor to the story although their roles are mostly offscreen. While Zenobia Shroff and Gita Reddy are well-cast and Rita and Ravi’s respective mothers, Aparna Nancherla has her own small moment during her brief appearance in the film, and Mark Duplass, who also participated in the production of the movie, and Jeffrey Self are also solid in their small but crucial supporting parts.
Overall, “7 Days” is a modest but engaging debut work to be appreciated for its competent handling of story and characters, and now I am wondering how it and a number of notable pandemic era films such as “Together” (2021) will be regarded in the future. Yes, it seems that the worst part is being over, but the COVID-19 pandemic will never go away from us as we often remember it during next several decades at least, and I can only hope that we will be able to regard those pandemic era films with amusement and relief.