Tribeca 2021 Review: A Pair of Shut-Ins Open Their Minds and Hearts in Roshan Sethi’s Charming “7 Days”

“Longest first date ever,” Rita (Geraldine Viswanathan) jokes in “7 Days,” just one morning into what turns out to be a far longer time commitment for herself and Ravi (Karan Soni), who decide not to break off their blind date despite hearing rumors of COVID making it across the Pacific Ocean yet are cautious enough to wear masks to an outdoor meet-up. Both have their reasons for seeing it through, not necessarily thinking a match will be made, but to please their tradition-bound Indian mothers, who want status updates on how things are going and have to be cautioned against starting to make wedding plans when Rita and Ravi’s phones start blowing up with other alerts about the world shutting down as the pandemic takes hold.

Already, the year of quarantine has produced a fair number of cabin fever comedies, but “7 Days” never goes where you think it will and is all the better for it, cleverly recasting the idea of the arranged marriage that united their parents and grandparents before them as an unanticipated week in lockdown where both can come to understand what they really want out of life and a potential partner when living together. Almost immediately, they know a romance isn’t imminent, leading Ravi on a fruitless search for a hotel to stay at after his car rental falls through, but when Rita invites him back to her house, she’s opening more doors than it would appear at first, revealing she’s hardly the “free-spirited girl with strict morals [who] dreams of cooking for her husband and watching Bollywood movies” that her mother promised in her dating profile and Ravi’s quest for a spouse is driven not necessarily by obligation as much of a sense of loneliness when his own strong adherence to cultural tenets keeps him out of group activities at work and elsewhere.

It doesn’t take long for Rita to spike Ravi’s drink out of boredom to see what’ll happen, but Soni and Viswanathan both give some of their most endearing performances to date as their characters surprise themselves with how they react to the other being around. Director Roshan Sethi, who co-wrote the script with Soni, may have a natural opposites attract premise on his hands, but while not heavy-handed, the cultural specificity of how the characters have a common bond in their upbringing yet were shaped in completely different ways by it becomes one of the most intriguing parts of the film and while it comes in handy that Ravi finds calm in cleaning up around Rita’s messy house, her lack of discipline can inspire Ravi to be less rigid in thinking that his life needs to be on a particular track. Both are called on to deal with what’s unfolding right before them without the time to think about it too much, and “7 Days” beautifully conveys the value in having respect for the history that’s come before while knowing when it’s time to break free from it.

“7 Days” is available to screen virtually through the Tribeca Film Festival from June 11th through June 23rd.