Let’s be real, after the past year and a half, the words “quarantine romance” are probably among the least appealing descriptors a movie could have. But it turns out that there’s an exception to every rule, and it’s not so much that no one should be making covid romcoms, it’s just that they have to be especially good to overcome the understandable fatigue audiences have about the subject. 7 Days is especially good. Sweet, quirky, and understated in its sense of humor, it richly develops its two lead characters and gives actors Geraldine Viswanathan and Karan Soni the opportunity to go on a charm offensive that is entirely successful.

Rita (Viswanathan) and Ravi (Soni) are together on the eve of the LA shelter-in-place order back in March 2020, enjoying an awkward, tentative first date set up by their conservative parents. Ravi is very traditional: he’s vegetarian, doesn’t drink alcohol, knows exactly how many children he wants and when he’ll be in a position to have them, and is fully committed to finding a wife through this complex Indian marriage market. Rita is much the same — or at last she’s pretending to be in order to keep her demanding mother off her case. But when Ravi’s rental car company cancels on him and he is forced to ride out the next few days at Rita’s apartment, the mask comes off, and the two opposites have to find a way to get along.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat: Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers, Hala, Bad Education, The Broken Hearts Gallery) is an absolute star. She is rapidly becoming one of those actors who you’ll watch in anything because you know that they’ll always be good, and her performance in 7 Days is no exception. Witty, irreverent, and completely chaotic, Rita is like a tornado of frenetic energy but at the same time total abject laziness. She’s eccentric, but written with enough depth that she never comes across as a manic pixie dream stereotype who’s exactly the right kind of weird to be endearing to men. Viswanathan has such a natural quality and perfect comic timing that Rita feels like a real flesh and blood woman, far more than most rom-com leading ladies.

Karan Soni is more of an unknown factor, since this is one of his first leading roles, but he is no less charming. A ball of neuroses and mommy issues, the immediate impression we get is that this man is wound so tight that he’s probably going to explode. He has an entire spreadsheet on his computer devoted to all the first dates that he’s been on, and has frequent business-like conversations with his mother where his future wife is discussed with the same office lingo that you might use to talk about potential vendors for a work function. But while Rita lets you know pretty much immediately what kind of person she is, Ravi has a lot more going on underneath the surface than is readily apparent. 7 Days gives Soni a lot of space especially in the third act to slowly peel back those layers to reveal a very sweet, endearing character.

Because 7 Days is an incredibly pared down production, it lives and dies on the strength of the chemistry between Viswanathan and Soni. Having worked together for years on the tragically underrated TBS sitcom Miracle Workers, they have an easy rapport that makes their developing bond completely believable. As they open up to one another, they discover hidden qualities in each other that allow something like affection to blossom, both only realizing how deep their connection is in moments where they’re alone. Each has coped with the pressures of their parents’ expectations in different ways: Rita by completely rejecting their plans, and Ravi by adhering to them to the letter. And in each other, they find a sort of balance.

Although the pandemic is a key element to the plot of 7 Days, it isn’t treated as a cheap way to cash in on current events. Instead, it’s used as a new way of connecting with tried and true romantic comedy tropes (uh-oh, these two attractive strangers who are complete opposites have to live together!) But it doesn’t matter that the themes it presents are familiar and well-worn within the genre: 7 Days doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. All that a romantic comedy really needs to do to be successful is to provide us with two likeable characters who have strong chemistry together, and with Geraldine Viswanathan and Karan Soni, they have that in spades.

Rating: ★★½