When I first read the description of 7 Days, I admit I was skeptical. At the time of writing, we’re two years into the COVID 19 pandemic, and we are very much still in it…isn’t it a bit soon to be making movies about this? However, Roshan Sethi and his partner Karan Soni have created a story so engaging it’s impossible not to get drawn in immediately.
At the start, it was so delightful seeing Karan Soni after his roles in larger blockbusters such as Deadpool, Ghostbusters (2016), and Pokemon Detective Pikachu. He very much shone in a small, street-level comedy drama that was a meditation on love and life in a pandemic.
The story begins with real-life footage of Indian couples talking to the camera about how they met, and how their marriages were arranged by their respective families. The Western audience is immediately skeptical, since we have so many preconceived notions about what arranged marriages are.
We are then introduced to Ravi (Karan Soni) and Rita (Geraldine Viswanathan), two Indian-Americans who have been set up on a meet-up by their respective families. They begin the process by presenting the best and varnished versions of themselves in a first date clearly headed for disaster.
Taking place at the very beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic, the audience is then reminded of the sheer chaos, terror and uncertainty that surrounded those early days. Ravi is stranded, and can’t find transit or a rental car to return to his home. As so many of us were, Ravi and Rita are forced to isolate together at Rita’s house, and the pretenses from their first date are dropped entirely.
On the surface, Ravi and Rita are polar opposites in practically every way. Ravi is horrified by the absolute disarray in which Rita maintains her home. As they spend more time together, he attempts to help her organize, only to have Rita promptly return to the baseline chaos she lives in.
Rita eats meat, drinks, and carries on a relationship with a married man. Ravi is so single minded in his academic pursuits and seems completely at a loss of how to speak to women in general, and completely mystified by their existence.
Lovers of the forced-proximity trope will find this movie absolutely delightful as Ravi and Rita are forced to not only get to know one another on a deeper level, but to adjust to one another’s’ lifestyles and mannerisms and find new ways to connect when the world around them is shutting down. They are forced to reveal their true, unvarnished, and occasionally unflattering selves.
The handling of COVID 19 itself is done in such a moving and really terrifying way. The movie so accurately captures the sheer terror that this illness has inspired in our world, and the compassion with which everyone affected is treated pulls at the heartstrings.
The character details in this movie are inspiring. According to the director, Viswanathan apparently designed an actual spreadsheet as a prop, with lists of potential suitors. We are told that Rita is an artist and paints aggressive portraits of female genitalia. However, upon further investigation, Ravi discovers she has in fact painted romantic scenes of couples together, revealing she is a romantic at heart, despite the façade of having given up on the idea of love.
At the end of the movie, we return to the real-life couples, including the parents of director Roshan Sethi, and find that in fact, their relationships have lasted for many decades and they are far more often than not each other’s best friends. The love with which they speak of each other is aspirational, and heart-touching in a world so often starved for genuine love and connection.
It’s an interesting thought experiment to consider where Ravi and Rita end up after the credits roll. While many viewers may undoubtedly picture them ending up together, in a loving, honest and mutually supportive relationship, it’s also possible that both of them came out of the closet, and explored their sexualities to live as their authentic selves and remained incredibly close and supportive friends. For what it’s worth, the film’s creators said in an interview during the Reel Asian Film Festival that this is a far more likely scenario, and I’m totally on board with that to be honest.
7 Days will no doubt be among the first of many movies that will be made about the COVID 19 pandemic. With it’s simple, heart-touching, and relatable story, it may just take its place as one of the best.
Reel Asian is a Toronto film festival with year-round programming highlighting Asian and Diaspora stories.