Monday 18 October 2021

7 DAYS - London Film Festival 2021

Under pressure from both their parents to find a suitable partner and get married, Rita and Ravi (Geraldine Viswanathan and Karan Soni) match on an Indian dating app and agree to meet. The first problem they've got is that it's March 2020 and there's a pandemic flaring up, so a socially distanced picnic in the park only increases the awkwardness of their first meeting, with the pair finding they have little in common apart from the desire to keep their parents happy. When the government's "Shelter in Place" lockdown order forces Ravi to stay at Rita's apartment, he finds that she wasn't being completely truthful about her lifestyle, nor her status as single.

As romantic comedy meet cutes go, a real life pandemic is certainly a bold one to choose, especially when we're not quite out the end of it yet. Rom-coms have tried similar scenarios before, forcing supposedly mismatched odd couples to live together and learn an important lesson along the way, but this is usually a one night kind of affair that doesn't last the runtime of the movie. There's one or two exceptions, like the Miles Teller/Lio Tipton snowstorm lock-in comedy Two Night Stand, but I think we can agree that there's more scope for laughs with bad weather than there is with deadly viruses. Riffing heavily on The Odd Couple with a healthy dose of When Harry Met Sally thrown in, 7 Days starts off on familiar ground but with a modern twist, showing Zoom interviews of real couples who had arranged marriages talking direct to camera about meeting their spouse through what many see as an outdated method. With the title referring to the amount of time Ravi's parents knew each other before getting married, it's debatable whether this film is for or against the tradition of arranged marriage, but it's fair to say it's aware how old-fashioned the practice seems to the outside world.

Produced by the Duplass Brothers, debut director Roshan Sethi's film focuses on the interpersonal connections between the two main characters, mining the banter and chemistry Viswanathan and Soni (co-stars on the TV show Miracle Workers) have. Viswanathan (who also serves as an exec producer) has quickly become a leading light in romantic comedies with stand-out turns in Blockers and The Broken Hearts Gallery, and Soni is probably best known as Deadpool's cab driving sidekick, Dopinder, but despite some comedic touches (Rita's dating app bio lists her hobbies as "caring for her future in-laws" and her ideal date is "cooking for her man and watching a Bollywood movie"), 7 Days is light on laughs.

Treading familiar romantic comedy ground, most of the comedy is mined from how dissimilar Rita and Ravi are, with one a clean freak and the other a relaxed slob, putting Rita squarely in Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory as she tackles the straight laced Ravi's many hang ups, broadening his world with new experiences like alcohol and meat. There's some well placed jibes at overbearing Indian mothers (Rita's judgemental mother asks "you didn't show him the real you, did you?") and some unapologetically sweet moments between Ravi and Rita, but a late in the day twist derails the dynamic the film works so hard to set up, separating our two leads in a misjudged attempt at finding common ground with the audience.

Despite its weak, nondescript title (I'll offer up Living Arrangements as an alternative, but if you're spending the film thinking about what they should have done, there's a problem) and its mishandling of the Covid part of the storyline, it's undeniable that there's effortless charm and likeability coming from the interactions between the two leads. The lockdown set-up might be, if anything, too current and relatable to get past for some audiences looking for a sweet dose of escapism, but perhaps in a post Covid world we'll look at 7 Days as an odd curio to remind us how life was for a little while. Hopefully.



7 Days screened as part of the 2021 London Film Festival. The full line-up can be found here.

No comments:

Post a Comment