BFI LFF 2021

7 Days review – surprisingly smart lockdown rom-com

Roshan Sethi’s timely love story transcends its pandemic hook for a genuinely entertaining portrait of forced connection

They say opposites attract, but in 7 Days that hypothesis is really put to the test. The film is the latest addition to the exponentially growing list of “COVID movies.” Time will tell if 7 Days will overcome its label or whether it will age like milk. But for now, Roshan Sethi’s directorial debut, centred on a young couple with no choice but to isolate together, injects a surprising degree of originality into this ever-expanding canon.

The film opens with Indian couples candidly discussing their real-life experience of arranged marriages. These opening pixelated images, framed in a sit-down documentary style, immediately transport this story to the heart of the pandemic; a time in which teaching family members the inner workings of Zoom was a daily struggle.

Context established, 7 Days finds two mothers reading the respective dating profiles of their twentysomething children. Ravi (Karan Soni) is awkwardly charming with a great job in research. Rita (Geraldine Viswanathan) loves cooking for others and is willing to commit to vegetarianism for the right man. They are both also looking for a traditional marriage, and on paper the couple is an ostensible match.

Their first meeting is a masked date, but it isn’t long before their phones are buzzing with stay-at-home order alerts. Ravi is left stranded by cancelled trains so temporarily settles in Rita’s cluttered home, hoping for the COVID storm to blow over. Going suddenly from strangers to roommates, the burgeoning connection between their opposing personalities and opinions towards an arranged marriage is crafted with genuine nuance.

As the reality of the pandemic comes crashing down, though, the pair’s true colours begin to show: Rita hates cooking and is a meat-eating day drinker while Ravi is highly strung and has very little relationship experience. While the film is contained in Rita’s apartment, 7 Days gives ample room for its stars to stretch and unravel the layers of their distinctive characters and never feels claustrophobic. Crucially, Karan Soni and Roshan Sethi’s script utilises the natural chemistry between Viswanathan and Soni, preventing 7 Days from falling back on any stale rom-com conventions.

“I think you’re not my wife,” Ravi awkwardly admits around fifteen minutes in. He shuts down after surveying Rita’s flat, where the kitchen hob is buried beneath unwashed pots and a vibrator is proudly sat on the bathroom sink. Then, after a few sips of whiskey, he’s on his feet performing a stand-up show of drunk ramblings to an audience of one. While Soni is great at handling these anxious monologues, Viswanathan is given a bit less to work with and always feels just slightly out of focus. Still, the film's smart narrative construction may give it longevity beyond the pandemic-branded moment.

7 Days was screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2021. A UK release date is yet to be announced.

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