TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Filmmaker Roshan Sethi demonstrates how much can be done in a limited setting in his funny, poignant, and deeply romantic feature-length debut 7 Days. Under the guise of a straightforward love story, Sethi’s film reveals itself to be an incisive look into the long-running Indian tradition of arranged marriages and its implications, set against the backdrop of a rapidly spreading COVID-19. If that sounds heavy, it’s anything but, the writer-director ensuring that things don’t get bogged down in ponderous polemic or pretentiousness. As a result, 7 Days is an absolute joy.
Ravi (Karan Soni) and Rita (Geraldine Viswanathan) meet via a pre-arranged date during the dawn of the pandemic. It doesn’t go so well: Ravi sweats and stammers and is hesitant about taking off his mask. Then the emergency alerts start coming in. Unable to reserve a car or book a hotel room, Ravi has no choice but to shelter at Rita’s place.
Her apartment is a mess. Ravi’s aghast at all the beer bottles, meat, and dildos. Turns out, Rita goes on these dates so her mom would pay for her place. “I think you are not my wife,” he proclaims, upon this discovery. “I mean this in a delicate way. There was some deception that happened.” She agrees. Eventually, she finds comfort in his traditions while he learns to let go and live a little.
“Unable to reserve a car or book a hotel room, Ravi has no choice but to shelter at Rita’s place.”
If the set-up sounds a bit forced and the sentiments clichéd, Sethi and his cast more than make up for it with non-stop inspired sequences. Ravi tearfully recounts a Bollywood film to a mortified Rita. Rita spikes Ravi’s drink with whiskey. Ravi does drunken stand-up for Rita. They dance. He teaches her how to cook. Halfway through, the film shifts gears as the virus descends upon the couple. Rita ends up in a hospital, and it’s in her absence when Ravi achieves a redemption of sorts. “You’re sick. You’re not even married,” he scolds himself as he masturbates, alone in her apartment, after gorging on fried chicken.
The radiant actors’ back-and-forth banter feels absolutely authentic, Soni and Viswanathan naturals at trading one-liners. “You sounded like Siri [before],” he accuses her when she displays a stoic demeanor. “You mean, I sounded subservient,” she snaps back. But they’re also utterly believable as two people gradually overcoming preconceptions to discover, well, love. My favorite moment arrives about halfway through, when Ravi cuddles Rita, shedding his face mask and his inherent notions with it. Another highlight involves Rita getting jealous when Ravi resolutely goes on online dates set up by his mother.
Mark Duplass executive produces with his brother Jay (and makes a cameo of sorts); the Duplass’s trademark warmth is evident in every celluloid pore. It’s a struggle to hold on to age-old traditions in a woke, continuously shifting society in a world stricken by disease, global warming, and shoddy politics. But there’s merit to tradition as well. In itself resembling a classically made rom-com, albeit with loftier aspirations, 7 Days will surely linger in your mind for at least a week.
7 Days screened at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.
"…resembling a classically-made rom-com, albeit with loftier aspirations..."