Culture Representation: Taking place in 2020, primarily in Kyburz, California, the horror film “Fear” features a cast of predominantly white and African American characters (with a few Asians and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: A group of friends gather at a remote lodge to celebrate one of the friend’s birthday, and their worst fears become a reality when they find out the lodge is cursed.
Culture Audience: “Fear” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching horror movies that are bad in every single way.
With a COVID-19 pandemic theme, the horror flick “Fear” is an idiotic time waster with a muddled story, tacky visual effects and weak ideas that are ripoffs of better-made horror films. Avoid this boring junk. Although there are a few fairly well-known entertainers in the movie’s cast, that star power isn’t enough to save “Fear” from its utter stupidity.
Directed by Deon Taylor (who co-wrote the atrocious “Fear” screenplay with John Ferry), “Fear” is yet another horror movie about people stuck in a remote location while terror is inflicted on them. In the case of “Fear,” this remote location is the fictional Strawberry Lodge in Kyburz, California, which is in the Lake Tahoe area. A group of nine people have gathered at the lodge to celebrate the birthday of woman in her 30s named Bianca (played by Annie Ilonzeh), who has a Ph. D. in religion.
Bianca’s boyfriend Rom Jennings (played by Joseph Sikora) has arranged this gathering as a surprise for Bianca. Rom is an author whose specialty is writing books about the paranormal and the unexplained. The movie opens with Rom doing a TV interview, where he says that he’s working on his next book, which will be about “the mythology of the Americas.”
Rom says of his forthcoming book, “I can’t really tell you too much about it, but what I can say is that is does squarely focus on the mythos and the mythology surrounding fear and the concept of fear.” He adds that he’s researching an area in Northern California that “permeates fear.” Rom then makes this obvious statement: “Fear is very real.”
During Rom and Bianca’s car drive to the Strawberry Lodge, they’re listening to the radio and hear a news report about Angel Wilson, a woman who disappeared from the Lake Tahoe area in 2015, when she was 26, and she is still missing. Bianca asks Rom to change the radio channel. It’s at this point you know that Angel will be mentioned several more times in the movie.
The seven friends of Rom and Bianca who have gathered to celebrate her birthday have mostly generic personalities in this poorly written movie. There is barely any information given about them, such as what they do for a living or how they know Rom and Bianca. The lodge has been rented so that these friends can have the place all to themselves. (How convenient for a horror movie.)
The other people in the group include Michael (played by Iddo Goldberg), a Brit who is Rom’s agent. Lou (played by Tip “T.I.” Harris) has been Rom’s friend since they were in eighth grade. Accompanying Lou on this trip is his girlfriend Kim (played by Tyler Abron), who is a single mother to an underage son.
Benny (played by Andrew Bachelor, also known as social media personality King Bach) is a photographer and the most inquisitive and talkative person in the group. Two other friends are a dating couple named Russ (played by Terrence Jenkins) and Meg (played by Jessica Allain). Another person in the group is Serena (played by Ruby Modine), who is superstitious and wears a “lucky” necklace with her at all times.
Rom has told Lou and Russ that he wants to propose marriage to Bianca, but so far (including during the trip to Strawberry Lodge), Rom got scared and couldn’t go through with his marriage proposal. It’s mentioned that this is the fourth time that Rom has failed to propose to Bianca. This marriage proposal is mentioned so many times, you’d think it would be a buildup to a big part of the story, but it isn’t.
Upon arriving at the lodge, the guests are greeted by a creepy hostess named Miss Wrenrich (played by Michele McCormick), who says that her family bought the lodge and rebuilt it after the lodge burned down in 1853. The lodge was originally built in 1838. Later, through research on the Internet, Benny finds out that the area has a sinister history of a group of witches calling themselves Las Brujas, who defended themselves against criminal Gold Rush miners, who would kidnap, rape, and sometimes kill women in the area.
Miss Wrenrich takes Bianca’s hand and says to her: “You carry the light, my dear. You’re a beacon.” This movie isn’t subtle at all about who’s most likely to survive the murder and mayhem that will ensue. Before she leaves, Miss Wrenrich insists on taking a group photo of the guests. She uses a Polaroid camera.
The COVID-19 pandemic is mentioned several times in conversations, although no one is social distancing or wearing masks. Because no one in the movie mentions being vaccinated, the movie appears to take place in 2020, before a COVID-19 vaccine was available. It’s mentioned briefly that Michael asked all of the guests (except for Bianca, since this gathering was a surprise to her) to take COVID tests before coming to the lodge, and all they all agreed. However, several of the guests become paranoid because Lou has been coughing frequently. Lou gets defensive when he finds out that some of the people in ths group suspect that Lou might be infected with COVID-19.
While gathered outside around a small bonfire one night, the friends confess their biggest fears. And it’s at that moment that you know that their fears will happen at some point in the movie. Bianca’s biggest fear used to be losing her religion, but more recently, her biggest fear has been losing the ability to breathe. Serena, who had a traumatic car accident when she was a child, says her biggest fear is losing control.
Russ says his biggest fear is blood. Kim says her biggest fear is not being able to take care of her son. Meg can’t swim, so her biggest fear is drowning. Lou says his biggest fear is not being trusted, especially by the people who depend on him. Benny was once handcuffed in a police brutality incident, so his biggest fear has anything to do with cops and handcuffs. Rom says his biggest fear is losing Bianca.
The rest of “Fear” has nothing but dull and not-very-interesting jump scares. As for the missing person Angel Wilson, who is mentioned numerous times in the movie, that’s a subplot that is badly mishandled and ends up being worthless. “Fear” is also completely worthless if people are looking for an entertaining horror movie.
Hidden Empire Film Group released “Fear” in U.S. cinemas on January 27, 2023.
Culture Representation: Taking place in 2020, in Mahabalipuram, India, the horror film “Connect” features an Indian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: During the COVID-19 quarantine lockdowns, a widowed businesswoman finds out that her teenage daughter is possessed by a demonic spirit.
Culture Audience: “Connect” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching horror movies that don’t have many surprises but have above-average acting and plenty of suspenseful moments.
“Connect” is not a groundbreaking movie about a teenage girl possessed by the devil. However, this horror flick delivers some effective jump scares and has very good acting, despite the predictable story. The movie excels at creating a foreboding and creepy atmosphere through its cinematography, production design and musical score.
Directed by Ashwin Saravanan (who co-wrote the “Connect” screenplay with Ramkumar Kaavya), “Connect” begins with a deceptively cheerful scene of four family members spending time together on a beach in Mahabalipuram, India. The family members are business executive Susan Joseph (played by Nayanthara), her doctor husband Joseph Benoy (played Vinay Rai), their teenage daughter Anna “Ammu” Joseph (played by Haniya Nafis) and Susan’s father Arthur Samuel (played by Sathyaraj). The adults watch in delight as Ammu, who is a talented singer/musician, plays an acoustic guitar and sings a song for them.
Ammu, who is about 16 or 17 years old, has been accepted into the prestigious Trinity School of Music in London. She’s excited about this opportunity. However, her parents aren’t quite ready for Ammu to live so far away from home. Susan tells Ammu that she can pursue whatever dreams she wants, but the timing has to be right. Ammu can sense that her parents won’t let her go to this school, but something happens that prevents the family from discussing the matter in more detail.
The COVID-19 pandemic comes on in full force, causing worldwide quarantine lockdowns. Joseph is a medical doctor at a hospital, where he has to work long hours during the pandemic crisis and he doesn’t have time to go home. Susan and Ammu communicate with him by videoconferencing. Ammu is considered a “daddy’s girl,” so she is very worried about what will happen to her father being around so many people infected by COVID-19.
Within a matter of days, the family’s worst fears come true: Joseph gets infected, and he quickly dies. The family is devastated by this loss. One night, Ammu secretly goes into a room by herself, lights a candle in front of a Oujia board, and communicates via a video chat with an unnamed woman (played by Mekha Rajan) who claims to be a spiritual medium. Ammu wants this spiritual medium to help Ammu contact the spirit of Joseph.
A ritual is performed. The spirtual medium sings an eerie song that seems to put her in a trance. Suddenly, Ammu’s computer screen freezes, and the room where the spiritual medium is goes dark. And almost immediately, the closed door behind Ammu opens, and Ammu notices that no one visible has opened the door. Ammu gasps in fright. And then the scene fades to black.
The next scene shows Susan on the phone with a doctor to report that Ammu hasn’t been eating or sleeping very well. Susan thinks that she and Ammu might have been infected with COVID-19 but are not showing severe-enough symptoms to go to a hospital. Ammu and Susan have been quarantining, and the only person Susan can think of who might have infected Susan and Ammu is the family housekeeper, who is never seen in the movie.
Ammu then begins to act strangely. She stays in her room for hours and refuses to let Susan inside. By the second day of Ammu appearing to be sick, Ammu refuses to talk to Susan. The rest of “Connect” goes exactly how you think it might go in a movie about a teenage girl plagued by demonic possession.
However, what will keep viewers interested is seeing how what happens during Ammu’s transformation and how Susan deals with it. Because they are stuck in a house together during pandemic lockdowns, it’s not as simple as leaving the house to get help. Similarly, people who could help are reluctant to make home visits during the pandemic. A priest named Father Alex (played by Avinash Yelandur) and a therapist named Sheela (played by Praveena Nandu) are contacted and try to help, but viewers see how Ammu deals with them. (It’s not as cliché as you might think it is.)
There’s also a great deal of the story where Susan has no idea that Ammu is possessed. She thinks that Ammu is going through a mopey teenage phase and grieving over the death of Joseph, until it reaches a point where Susan sees some things that she can’t ignore. It’s one thing for Ammu’s bedroom to have upside-down crosses drawn on the walls like graffiti. But it’s another thing when Ammu starts hiding in dark places and hissing, or when Ammu vomits when Susan makes Ammu drink a glass of water that Ammu doesn’t know has holy water in it.
As shown in the movie’s trailer, Anupam Kher has a supporting role as Father Augustine, the priest who is contacted to perform the exorcism. (Ammu and her family are Roman Catholic.) “Connect” is convincing in how it depicts Susan’s claustrophobic fear of being stuck inside because of quarantining from a deadly pandemic but also feeling like her life is in danger because of the person who’s stuck inside with her.
Nayanthara gets most of the screen time in “Connect” as Susan, but Nafis makes an impessive feature-film debut as Ammu, who becomes a genuinely sinister character. “Connect” director/co-writer Saravanan cleverly keeps Ammu off screen for most of the movie, in order to keep viewers on edge to see when Ammu might show up again and what she might do next. “Connect” isn’t gory by most standards of scary movies. What the movie does so well is show the horror of feeling trapped somewhere with a loved one who has become a monster.
Rowdy Pictures released “Connect” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on December 22, 2022.
Culture Representation: Taking place somewhere on the West Coast of the United States in 2020, the comedy film “The Disappearance of Toby Blackwood” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, a man decides to distract himself by searching for a former schoolmate who has become a semi-famous “doomsday” conspiracy theorist and who has disappeared during the pandemic.
Culture Audience: “The Disappearance of Toby Blackwood” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching boring and idiotic comedies that use a deadly pandemic for cheap and unfunny jokes.
“The Disappearance of Toby Blackwood” is yet another unimaginative and repetitive movie with a COVID-19 theme. Viewers are stuck with the vapid and obnoxious characters, just like these characters are stuck quarantining and use it as an excuse to be stupid. This poorly made comedy is only 74 minutes long, but it feels like longer. There’s barely enough of a story to fill a short film, which is why it’s a chore to watch all of “The Disappearance of Toby Blackwood.”
“The Disappearance of Toby Blackwood” is an independently financed film that you can tell was made by frequently unemployed actors who decided to give themselves jobs by making a terrible movie. It explains why the director and co-writers of this dreadful dud have cast themselves as stars in the movie. “The Disappearance of Toby Blackwood” director Joe Ahern gets the most screen time as the film’s protagonist: a lackluster, middle-aged sad sack named Wes Crowley. Ahern co-wrote the movie’s atrocious screenplay with Doug Mellard, who plays the completely irritating Toby Blackwood.
Watching the misguided Ahern and Mellard as these two cretinous characters is like watching the polar opposite reasons why actors fail in their roles. Ahern is very listless and flat, while Mellard over-acts. “The Disappearance of Toby Blackwood” also commits one of the worst sins of a movie with a COVID-19 pandemic lockdown theme: It’s mostly a series of very insipid and increasingly annoying phone calls and videoconference chats.
The gist of this very limp story (which takes place somewhere on the West Coast of the U.S. in 2020) is that Wes is bored at home while quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, so he and a few friends decide to find out what happened to Wes’ former schoolmate Toby, who has recently disappeared. Wes and Toby haven’t seen each other in about 20 years, but Wes knows that Toby has become a semi-famous “doomsday” conspiracy theorist. It’s mentioned early on in the film that Toby has 200,000 Twitter followers and 130,000 YouTube subscribers.
There’s a subplot about Wes being bitter because his wife Courtney (played by Natasha Hall) has left him and taken their dog Iggy Pup with her. Courtney also served divorce papers to Wes, in case it wasn’t clear that their marriage is over. Courtney left the dog bowl behind, and Wes whines in an early scene in the movie: “I don’t have the heart to throw it away, so I just stare at it all day.”
Throughout the movie, Wes does video chats with five of his closest friends: Luke Dalton (played by Grant Harvey), Carrie (played by Annie Karstens), Wendy (played by Ashley Spillers), Mike (played by Eddie Alfano) and Keith (played by Arjay Smith). Luke is the loudmouth jerk of the group, so you know he’s going to get the most screen time. Keith is the only one in this group who comes close to sounding like he’s the voice of reason, so course he gets the least screen time out of these five pals.
Luke is actually the one who comes up with the idea to look for Toby. Luke persuades a reluctant Wes to start an investigation, and eventually Wes becomes more interested in finding out what happened to Toby. It should be noted that Luke and Wes also drink a lot of beer during their investigation shenanigans, which might explain why their judgment is impaired but doesn’t explain why this movie is so horrendous.
“The Disappearance of Toby Blackwood” wastes a lot of time showing Luke and Wes talking to various people (usually Toby’s mentally ill followers), who have various theories about why Toby has gone missing. None of the theories is even remotely close to being amusing. “The Disappearance of Toby Blackwood” is filled with a lot of drab dialogue, such as this comment that Wes says that’s supposed to make viewers laugh: “Between my divorce, the quarantine and these bizarre conspiracy theories, I think I’ve aged 10 years in three days.”
A few fairly well-known actors make cameos as these weirdo followers of Toby. The cast members making quick appearances in this embarrassing movie include Simon Pegg, as a paranoid fan named Garth Arthur, who rambles on about alternate realities. Other actors portraying fans of Toby include Lamorne Morris as Gerald Meacham and Luis Guzmán as Chester Mendoza, who both have babbling, forgettable lines of dialogue. All it proves is that the filmmakers called in some favors to get these well-established actors to be in this awful movie.
Why hasn’t anyone contacted the police to report Toby missing? It’s explained early on in the movie that Wes and Luke don’t want to contact the police because Toby has enough guns (many probably illegal) to arm a militia, and they don’t want Toby to get in trouble with law enforcement. Why hasn’t anyone contacted Toby’s family members? Wes and Luke don’t want to alarm these relatives because Toby hasn’t officially been reported missing, and no one knows yet if Toby voluntarily disappeared, or if there was foul play involved.
“The Disappearance of Toby Blackwood” is just a tedious slog of these witless conversations. A low point is a segment showing terribly stereotypical depictions of Italian Americans: The brother characters of Vinny Balducci (played by Joseph Russo) and Paul Balducci (played by Jeremy Luke), who are in their 30s, talk about a grudge involving a murder and veal scallopini (don’t ask), as if they’re Super Mario Bros. wannabe mafia types. Other not-funny-at-all segments show a urine filtration device salesperson named Larry the Urine Guy (played by Rick Gomez) and an unhinged priest named Father Delgado (played by Rudy Mungaray).
A conspiracy fanatic named Mandy Prescott (played by Dana DeLorenzo), who says that she is Toby’s girlfriend, insists that Toby went to meet Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates at Area 51, because Toby thinks Gates created the COVID-19 pandemic so that Gates could put microchips in COVID vaccines. The movie also over-uses a so-called “joke” that some of Toby’s fans, including one named Gilbert Muldoon (played by Todd Giebenhain), think Area 51 is really located underneath the Denver International Airport. Don’t expect there to be any hidden cleverness to this “joke.” There is none.
Interspersed with these stale and vacuous conversations are scenes showing some of Toby’s conspiracy theory videos, so this movie’s viewers can see what type of garbage content he’s been spewing out into the world. There’s nothing original about what Toby says or does when he rants about government spying and “end of the world” predictions. “The Disappearance of Toby Blackwood” presents everything as a weak and uninteresting parody of real-life conspiracy theorists. All of the footage with Toby will just make viewers wish that Toby would stay permanently missing so that he stays far away from humanity. If you care about being entertained, you’re better off staying far away from “The Disappearance of Toby Blackwood.”
Freestyle Digital Media released “The Disappearance of Toby Blackwood” on digital and VOD on December 20, 2022.
Culture Representation: Taking place on the West Coast of the United States in 2020 (with some flashbacks to 2017), the comedy film “Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Asians, Latinos and African Americans) representing the working-class and the middle-class.
Culture Clash: Two aspiring filmmakers, who are best friends and work partners, go on a road trip from Los Angeles to Boise, Idaho, to visit a quarantined friend who has been infected by COVID-19.
Culture Audience: “Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in comedies with a COVID-19 theme, no matter how silly and time-wasting those comedies are.
Dull and very manipulative, “Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying” is the worst type of filmmaking with a COVID-19 theme. Viewers will have a hard time caring about the self-absorbed cretins at the center of this insipid comedy. It’s yet another movie about the COVID-19 pandemic that fails to have much purpose other than to try to cash in on this horrific pandemic that has killed millions of people.
Directed by Parker Seaman, “Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying” also represents the type of self-referential filmmaking that has insecure filmmakers desperately trying to make themselves look cool by constantly telling everyone watching the movie how cool they are. In these types of movies, the filmmakers usually portray versions of themselves while they go on rants or excursions where they trade barbs that are supposed to be witty and hip but are actually very mindless and juvenile, with no self-awareness of how awful and boring the filmmaking is. “Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying” had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.
Unfortunately, a large chunk of “Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying” is a road trip, so viewers are stuck with the two obnoxious main characters who make fools out of themselves on this trip. Parker (played by Seaman) and Devin (played by Devin Das), also known as Dev, are best friends, work partners and aspiring feature film directors who live in Los Angeles. Parker and Dev, who are both in their 20s, pay their bills by working as co-directors of commercials and music videos, until they can get their first big break in the movie industry. Seaman and Das co-wrote the terrible screenplay for “Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying.”
The movie opens in 2017, on the set of a commercial that Parker and Dev are directing. They’re having a hard time because their stoner/slacker friend Wes Schlagenhauf (playing a version of himself) has a job to dress up as a dancing bear for this commercial, but Wes is being difficult. Parker and Dev want Wes to look like he’s dancing naturally. Wes whines in response: “You’re telling me to dance naturally in a fucking bear costume!”
Parker and Dev remind Wes that even though he’s their friend, and they are the co-directors of this commercial, it wasn’t easy to get him cast for this acting gig. More arguing ensues, until Wes snaps and walks off of this non-union job. Wes yells before he heads out the door while still in the costume: “You poked a bear, you guys! Huge mistake!” After he leaves, Parker and Dev wonder how they’re going to get another bear costume in time to finish this commercial.
The movie then fast forwards to 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. Parker and Dev now work from home. Within the first 10 minutes of the movie, it’s obvious that Parker thinks he’s the bossy “alpha male” of this duo. Parker acts like he thinks he’s not only smarter than Dev but also smarter than almost everyone Parker meets. Parker’s arrogance isn’t backed up with any real intelligence, since he continues to make irrational and moronic decisions.
A conversation reveals that after Wes’ meltdown in the bear costume, Wes abruptly quit the entertainment business, and he decided to move back to his hometown of Boise, Idaho. Not much is known about Wes, except he’s described as someone who “loves baseball, cocaine and LSD.” Wes hasn’t really kept in regular touch with Parker and Dev, who both still have a little bit of resentment over how Wes wrecked the job opportunity they gave to him and how he suddenly decided to leave Los Angeles.
However, things aren’t so bad with Parker, Dev and Wes that they’ve stopped communicating with each other. During a video conference call, Wes tells Dev and Parker that he’s sick with COVID-19 and is quarantining at home, where Wes lives with his mother and stepfather. Contrary to what the movie’s title suggests, Wes never gives the impression in this phone call that he’s dying or that he needs to go to a hospital.
Parker immediately thinks that Dev and Parker should visit Wes by going on a road trip to Boise, and that they should make a documentary about it. Dev is reluctant at first, but Parker convinces Dev to go. During the road trip, Parker and Dev check in on Wes on a regular basis to see how he’s doing.
Actor/filmmaker Mark Duplass has a cameo as a version of himself in “Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying.” Mark shows up on video because he’s on the roster for a service called Cameo, which has famous people sending personal video messages to people who pay a fee for these video messages. Parker and Dev have signed up to have Mark do a personal “get well soon” message for Wes.
The rest of the movie is an idiotic slog, as Parker and Dev have some not-very-funny misadventures during their road trip, where they predictably have agruments with each other. The first of many signs that “Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying” is a bad movie is when Parker and Dev, who work with digital technology in their jobs and are supposed to be tech-savvy, get lost on their road trip. Viewers are supposed to believe that these two bozos suddenly don’t know how to use a smartphone to get directions. It’s just a lazy way to stretch out the already very thin plot.
Parker and Dev share the same agent, whose name is Chelsea (played by D’Arcy Carden), and they have a deal where Parker and Dev are always supposed to work together on jobs that they get. But there’s a tedious subplot about how one of these director pals betrays his friend by going behind the other’s back to take a lucrative commercial job for himself. As part of the deceit, he tells Chelsea that the other friend knows and approves of this decision to work solo, which is a dumb lie because Parker and Dev having the same agent means that the lie will inevitably be exposed. The movie also keeps repeating a very unfunny joke of Parker trying to persuade Dev to tell Parker the password for Dev’s Disney+ account.
It gets worse. By the time Dev and Parker arrive at the place where Wes lives, the movie takes some very ludicrous twists and turns until the very end. The story’s big “reveal” is truly an insult to viewers. Everything about “Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying” looks like an amateurish skit that could have been a very short film but instead was elongated into a feature film that’s just a waste of everyone’s time.
The following is a press release from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 to include use in children down to 6 months of age.
For the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, the FDA amended the emergency use authorization (EUA) to include use of the vaccine in individuals 6 months through 17 years of age. The vaccine had been authorized for use in adults 18 years of age and older.
For the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, the FDA amended the EUA to include use of the vaccine in individuals 6 months through 4 years of age. The vaccine had been authorized for use in individuals 5 years of age and older.
The FDA’s evaluation and analysis of the safety, effectiveness and manufacturing data of these vaccines was rigorous and comprehensive, supporting the EUAs.
The agency determined that the known and potential benefits of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the known and potential risks in the pediatric populations authorized for use for each vaccine.
“Many parents, caregivers and clinicians have been waiting for a vaccine for younger children and this action will help protect those down to 6 months of age. As we have seen with older age groups, we expect that the vaccines for younger children will provide protection from the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. “Those trusted with the care of children can have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of these COVID-19 vaccines and can be assured that the agency was thorough in its evaluation of the data.”
The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is administered as a primary series of two doses, one month apart, to individuals 6 months through 17 years of age. The vaccine is also authorized to provide a third primary series dose at least one month following the second dose for individuals in this age group who have been determined to have certain kinds of immunocompromise.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is administered as a primary series of three doses in which the initial two doses are administered three weeks apart followed by a third dose administered at least eight weeks after the second dose in individuals 6 months through 4 years of age.
Information about each vaccine is available in the fact sheets for healthcare providers administering vaccine and the fact sheets for recipients and caregivers.
“As with all vaccines for any population, when authorizing COVID-19 vaccines intended for pediatric age groups, the FDA ensures that our evaluation and analysis of the data is rigorous and thorough,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “In addition to making certain the data for these vaccines met FDA’s rigorous standards, the agency’s convening of an advisory committee was part of a transparent process to help the public have a clear understanding of the safety and effectiveness data supporting the authorization of these two vaccines for pediatric populations.”
Evaluation of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine for Individuals 6 Months through 17 Years of Age
The effectiveness and safety data evaluated and analyzed by the FDA for the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine to support the EUA for these pediatric populations were generated in two ongoing, randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trials in the United States and Canada which enrolled infants, children and adolescents.
Children 6 months through 5 years of age: Immune responses of a subset of 230 children 6 through 23 months and a subset of 260 children 2 through 5 years of age who received a two-dose primary series of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine at 25 micrograms (mcg) of messenger RNA (mRNA) per dose were compared to immune responses among 290 adults 18 through 25 years who received two higher doses of the vaccine in a previous study which determined the vaccine to be effective in preventing COVID-19. In these FDA analyses, the immune response to the vaccine, of both age groups of children, was comparable to the immune response of the adults.
An analysis of cases of COVID-19 occurring at least 14 days after the second dose among approximately 5,400 children in this age group without evidence of prior infection with SARS-CoV-2 was conducted during the time period in which the omicron variant was the predominant circulating strain. In this analysis, among participants 6 through 23 months of age, 64% of whom had blinded follow-up for more than two months after the second dose, the vaccine was 50.6% effective in preventing COVID-19. Among participants 2 through 5 years of age, 72% of whom had blinded follow-up for more than two months after the second dose, the vaccine was 36.8% effective in preventing COVID-19.
Children 6 years through 11 years of age: Immune responses of a subset of 320 children in this age group who received a two-dose primary series of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine at 50 mcg of mRNA per dose were compared to immune responses among 295 adults 18 through 25 years who received two higher doses of the vaccine in a previous study which determined the vaccine to be effective in preventing COVID-19. In the FDA analysis, the immune response of the children to the vaccine was comparable to the immune response of the adults. An additional analysis pertaining to the occurrence of COVID-19 cases was determined not to be reliable due to the low number of COVID-19 cases that occurred in study participants.
Adolescents 12 through 17 years of age: Immune responses of a subset of 340 adolescents in this age group who received a two-dose primary series of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine at 100 mcg of mRNA per dose were compared to immune responses among 296 adults 18 through 25 years who received two equivalent doses of the vaccine in a previous study which determined the vaccine to be effective in preventing COVID-19. In this analysis, the immune response of adolescents was comparable to the immune response of the older participants.
An analysis was also conducted of cases of COVID-19 occurring at least 14 days after the second dose among approximately 3,000 adolescents in this age group without evidence of prior infection with SARS-CoV-2, in which approximately 42% of participants had two or more months of blinded follow-up after the second dose. In this analysis, among participants 12 through 17 years of age, the vaccine was 93.3% effective in preventing COVID-19. The data for this analysis were obtained before the omicron variant became the predominant circulating strain.
The safety data to support the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine EUA in individuals 6 months through 17 years of age are as follows:
Children 6 months through 5 years of age: Safety was evaluated in approximately 1,700 children 6 through 23 months of age who received the vaccine and 600 who received the placebo. Of these, approximately 1,100 vaccine recipients were followed for safety for at least two months following the second dose. For participants 2 through 5 years of age, approximately 3,000 received the vaccine and approximately 1,000 received a placebo; approximately 2,200 vaccine recipients were followed for safety for at least two months following the second dose. In clinical trial participants 6 months through 5 years of age, the most commonly reported side effects across all age subgroups included pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, fever and underarm (or groin) swelling/tenderness of lymph nodes in the same arm (or thigh) as the injection. In clinical trial participants 6 through 36 months of age, the most commonly reported side effects also included irritability/crying, sleepiness, and loss of appetite. In clinical trial participants 37 months through 5 years of age, the most commonly reported side effects also included fatigue, headache, muscle ache, chills, nausea/vomiting and joint stiffness.
Children 6 through 11 years of age: Safety was evaluated in approximately 3,000 children who received the vaccine and approximately 1,000 children who received placebo. The majority of vaccine recipients (98.7%) had at least two months of safety follow-up after their second dose.
Adolescents 12 through 17 years of age: Safety was evaluated in approximately 2,500 participants who received the vaccine and 1,200 who received placebo. The majority of vaccine recipients (95.6%) had at least six months of follow-up after the second dose.
The most commonly reported side effects in the clinical trial participants for both the 6 through 11 age group and the 12 through 17 age group who received the vaccine include, pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, underarm swollen lymph nodes in the same arm as the injection, nausea and vomiting and fever.
Evaluation of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for Children 6 Months through 4 Years of Age
The effectiveness and safety data evaluated and analyzed by the FDA for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine were generated in an ongoing, randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial in the United States and internationally, which enrolled infants and children.
The effectiveness data to support the EUA in children 6 months through 4 years of age is based on a comparison of immune responses following three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine in a subset of children in this age group to the immune responses among adults 16 through 25 years of age who received two higher doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine in a previous study which determined the vaccine to be effective in preventing COVID-19. The study was conducted in two age subgroups. The immune response to the vaccine of approximately 80 children, 6 through 23 months of age, and approximately 140 children, 2 through 4 years of age, were compared to the immune response of approximately 170 of the older participants. In these FDA analyses, the immune response to the vaccine for both age groups of children was comparable to the immune response of the older participants. An additional analysis pertaining to the occurrence of COVID-19 cases was determined not to be reliable due to the low number of COVID-19 cases that occurred in study participants.
The available safety data to support the EUA in children 6 through 23 months of age include approximately 1,170 who received the vaccine and approximately 600 who received placebo; approximately 400 vaccine recipients were followed for safety for at least two months following the third dose. For the participants 2 through 4 years of age, approximately 1,800 received the vaccine and approximately 900 received placebo; approximately 600 vaccine recipients were followed for safety for at least two months following the third dose. The most commonly reported side effects in clinical trial participants 6 through 23 months of age who received the vaccine were irritability, decreased appetite, fever and pain, tenderness, redness and swelling at the injection site. These side effects were also reported for the vaccine recipients 2 through 4 years age, in addition to fever, headache, and chills.
Risks of Myocarditis and Pericarditis
The FDA and CDC safety surveillance systems have previously identified increased risks of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of tissue surrounding the heart) following vaccination with the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, particularly following the second dose. The observed risk is highest in males 18 through 24 years of age for the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine and in males 12 through 17 years of age for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.
The FDA and the CDC analyses of available safety surveillance data from the U.S. and other countries on myocarditis outcomes continue to strengthen the evidence that most cases of myocarditis associated with the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines are characterized by rapid resolution of symptoms following conservative management, with no impact on quality of life reported by most patients who were contacted for follow-up at 90 days or more after reporting myocarditis. The risks of myocarditis and pericarditis are described in the fact sheets for each of these vaccines.
Ongoing Safety Monitoring
As part of their original EUA requests, both ModernaTX Inc. and Pfizer Inc. submitted plans to continue to monitor the safety of the vaccines as they are used under EUA. These plans for monitoring the overall safety of the vaccines and ensuring that any safety concerns are identified and evaluated in a timely manner, and which include monitoring for myocarditis and pericarditis, have been updated to include the newly authorized populations. In addition, longer-term safety follow-up is ongoing for participants enrolled in the clinical trials for both vaccines. Furthermore, the FDA and the CDC have several systems in place to continually monitor COVID-19 vaccine safety and allow for the timely detection and investigation of potential safety concerns.
It is mandatory for both ModernaTX Inc. and Pfizer Inc., as well as vaccination providers, to report the following to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) for these two COVID-19 vaccines: serious adverse events, cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome and cases of COVID-19 that result in hospitalization or death. It is also mandatory for vaccination providers to report all vaccine administration errors to VAERS for which they become aware and for vaccine manufacturers to include a summary and analysis of all identified vaccine administration errors in monthly safety reports submitted to the FDA.
The EUA amendment for the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine was issued to ModernaTX Inc. and the EUA amendment for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine was issued to Pfizer Inc.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.
Because of the COVD-19 pandemic, U.S. airlines began requiring face masks for all passengers and employees in May 2020. (People were allowed not to wear masks while eating and drinking.) The mask requirement became a federal mandate in January 2021, and it affected U.S. airlines that are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration. The airlines had been pushing for a lift of mask requirements due to a reported massive increase in physical altercations, harassment and verbal abuse that airline employees experienced from passengers who do not want to wear face masks. Even though the mask mandate has been lifted, airline passengers and employees have the option to war face masks if they choose to do so.
It’s important to remember that the liftings of mask restrictions listed above apply to U.S.-based airlines for flights traveling within the United States. Airlines based outside the U.S. and airplane flights outside the U.S. might have different policies. In addition, policies for wearing masks might vary for international airports outside of the United States. If you are traveling outside the U.S., find out the mask policies for the airline and airport before you go to the airport.
Here statements from each of the major U.S.-based airlines, as of April 19, 2022:
Face masks have been like boarding passes for nearly two years — you couldn’t fly without one. But, as of today, masks are optional in airports and onboard aircraft, effective immediately.
Due to a judicial decision in our federal court system, the mask mandate has been overturned, which means our guests and employees have the option to wear a mask while traveling in the U.S. and at work.
Note: Guests must continue to wear masks on flights both to and from Canada. Masks must still be worn in airports within Canada and Mexico.
Safety is always our highest priority, so while we love to see your smiling faces in the airport and on board, we respect your decision to keep using this added layer of protection. Above all, we hope you’ll treat each other with kindness and respect throughout the travel journey and beyond.
It has been a long 24 months with nearly constant change. I could not be prouder of our frontline employees who have handled every pivot focusing on safety and the care we’re known for,” said Max Tidwell, VP of safety & security at Alaska Airlines. “We’re also thankful for our guests who remained considerate, patient and stood by us throughout every twist and turn.”
Even as more pandemic protocols and policies ease, our team will remain vigilant and prepared for whatever may come next. Safety remains our top priority. And while we sincerely hope most of these challenges are in our rear-view mirror, we are confident we will be ready to respond if faced with another COVID wave or even a new virus.
What happens to guests who were banned because of not following our previous mask policy?Throughout the last two years, we have relied on reporting from agents and flight attendants to ban noncompliant guests from traveling while the federal mask policy remained in effect. Based on our reports, we will have some guests whose behavior was particularly egregious who will remain banned, even after the mask policy is rescinded.
As always, we will continue to hold safety as our highest value. Thank you again to our loyal guests and team of 22,000 people who came together over the last two years to do the right thing and take care of one another. We’ve proven we can do anything together.
American Airlines has prioritized the health and safety of its team members and customers throughout the pandemic and has supported the federal government’s measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. In accordance with the Transportation Security Administration no longer enforcing the federal face mask mandate, face masks will no longer be required for our customers and team members at U.S. airports and on domestic flights. Please note face masks may still be required based on local ordinances, or when traveling to/from certain international locations based on country requirements. In keeping with our commitment to creating a welcoming environment for everyone who travels with us, customers and team members may choose to continue to wear masks at their own discretion. We are deeply grateful to our team members for their enforcement of the mandate, and will share more information about this transition in the coming days.
Facemasks are no longer required on Breeze flights for both Guests and Team Members. Please be kind and respectful of individual choices, and remember that wearing a mask while flying on Breeze is still an option.
Following the ruling of a U.S. district court judge on Monday, the Biden administration announced that the Transportation Security Administration will no longer enforce the federal mandate requiring masks in all U.S. airports and on board aircraft. Effective immediately, masks are optional for all airport employees, crew members and customers inside U.S. airports and on board all aircraft domestically, as well as on most international flights.
Delta employees and customers may continue wearing masks if they so choose. Wearing a well-fitting mask – such as a KN95 – protects the wearer, even if others around them are not wearing masks, according to our Chief Health Officer Dr. Henry Ting.
Given the unexpected nature of this announcement, please be aware that customers, airline employees and federal agency employees, such as TSA, may be receiving this information at different times. You may experience inconsistent enforcement during the next 24 hours as this news is more broadly communicated – remember to show understanding and patience with others who may not be aware enforcement is no longer required. Communications to customers and in-airport signage and announcements will be updated to share that masking is now optional – this may take a short period of time.
Local mask mandates in other countries may still be in effect. Additional updates will be provided as new information becomes available.
We are relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel as COVID-19 transitions to a more manageable respiratory virus – with better treatments, vaccines and other scientific measures to prevent serious illness.Thank you for your support in complying with the federal mask mandate and keeping each other safe during the pandemic.
To mask or not to mask, the choice is yours. Masks are now optional on domestic flights, however, certain airports or countries may still require masks, so check the policy at your destination prior to departure and we’ll see you in the sky.
In alignment with TSA’s Security Directive, face masks are optional for our guests and employees onboard Hawaiian Airlines flights. We advise travelers to stay informed and follow mask requirements that may remain in effect at their origin or arrival airports. Guests who wish to continue wearing face masks are welcome to do so. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we update our communications and announcements to reflect this change.
In line with Monday’s federal court ruling and the Transportation Security Administration’s guidance, mask wearing will now be optional on JetBlue. While no longer required, customers and crewmembers are welcome to continue wearing masks in our terminals and on board our aircraft.
Regardless of the U.S. rule change, customers and crew members who are traveling internationally should always have a mask with them in case they continue to be required at their destination.
We are working to proactively share this update with our customers and crewmembers, so please be patient as we update our communications.
On Monday, a federal judge issued a decision stating the federal mask mandate for public transportation, including on airlines and at airports, is no longer in effect. Thereafter, the White House announced the masking order is not in effect, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will not enforce the federal mask mandate at this time.
As a result of this development, effective immediately, Southwest Employees and Customers will be able to choose whether they would like to wear a mask on flights, at domestic airports, and at some international locations. We encourage individuals to make the best decision to support their personal wellbeing. Additionally, Southwest will continue supporting the comfort of those who travel with us by offering additional layers of protection, including sophisticated cabin air ventilation systems onboard our aircraft which incorporate HEPA air filtration that removes at least 99.97% of airborne particles.
We appreciate the cooperation and compliance efforts of our Customers and Employees as policies have evolved. We’ll continue to monitor public health guidance, and federal requirements, while always keeping safety as our uncompromising priority.
For additional information, we also invite you to contact Airlines for America, our trade association, for an industry perspective on this development.
Face masks are now optional for Spirit Team Members and Guests onboard our flights following the federal court ruling and TSA guidance.
We understand some Guests may want to continue wearing face coverings on flights, and that’s perfectly fine under our optional policy. For our Guests traveling internationally, please remember to check country-specific airport requirements before traveling.
Thank you Sun Country guests for your patience and for masking up. Effective immediately, wearing a mask on Sun Country flights is optional for our passengers and employees. We look forward to seeing your smiles on board and encourage kindness and respect for those who continue to mask.
Masks are no longer required on domestic flights, select international flights (dependent upon the arrival country’s requirements) or at U.S. airports. More comfortable keeping yours on? Go right ahead… the choice is yours.
While this means that our employees are no longer required to wear a mask—and no longer have to enforce a mask requirement for most of the flying public—they will be able to wear masks if they choose to do so, as the CDC continues to strongly recommend wearing a mask on public transit. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in the event of changes.
Culture Representation: Taking place from March 2020 to March 2021, in an unnamed city in the United Kingdom, the comedy/drama “Together” features an all-white cast of characters representing the middle-class.
Culture Clash: An unmarried couple, who are opposites in many ways, confront issues in their love/hate relationship when they have to quarantine together during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Culture Audience: “Together” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in well-acted movies about love relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The comedy/drama “Together” is a very talkative relationship movie that could easily have been a stage play because the entire story takes place at one house. The movie’s appeal is largely dependent on the talent of co-stars James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan. They are two of the movie’s three cast members who speak. McAvoy and Horgan also have about 99% of the screen time and speaking lines in the movie. And much of it consists of conversations and monologues that are funny, rude, angry and sometimes poignant.
Fortunately, McAvoy and Horgan succeed in making their very flawed characters sizzle with a wide range of emotions that are realistic for a troubled couple navigating their way through a quarantine together during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Together” (directed by Stephen Daldry and written Dennis Kelly) takes place from March 24, 2020, to March 22, 2021, in an unnamed city in the United Kingdom. By the end of the movie, the unnamed, unmarried couple portrayed by McAvoy and Horgan have a reckoning about where their relationship is headed, and they decide if they are going to stay together or not.
The couple at the center of the story are only identified as He and She in the film’s credits. They are both opposites in many ways. He is a businessman who used to be a high-ranking corporate executive and has started his own tech consulting business that is failing when this story begins. He’s politically conservative and hates the idea of government welfare because he thinks people on welfare are lazy. He has a very arrogant and condescending view of people who are working-class and poor, even though he comes from a working-class background in Scotland.
She’s from England and politically liberal—someone whom a conservative would call a “bleeding heart” liberal, although she likes to think of herself as a moderate liberal. She comes from an upper-middle-class background (her late father was a dentist), and she believes that the government and society in general should do more to help poor and disenfranchised people. It’s why she works as a refugee coordinator.
This often-bickering couple has a son together named Arthur, nicknamed Artie (played by Samuel Logan), who’s about 11 or 12 years old. Artie stays in the background for most of the movie. Artie also doesn’t speak until the last third of the film, when the quarantine lockdown has lifted and the COVID-19 vaccination has become available. This family trio lives in a cluttered, upper-middle-class two-story house.
There are two scenes where Artie is briefly shown on a backyard trampoline. The movie quickly shows only person outside of the household: a boy who’s around the same age as Artie and who lives next door. This unnamed boy doesn’t speak in the movie, but he also has a backyard trampoline that he’s seen jumping on at the same time as Artie. Viewers will get the impression that even without a quarantine, Artie is a loner anyway because he and his parents never mention Artie not being able to hang out with any friends during the lockdown.
The beginning of “Together” doesn’t waste time in showing the volatile relationship between these on-again/off-again lovers. It’s the first day of the quarantine lockdown, and they’ve just come back from stocking up on food from a grocery store, where a lot of panic buying was going on. This argumentative couple—who talk to the camera, as if they’re filming video diaries for an audience—can’t even agree on the name their son should be called. He thinks their son should be called Artie, while she prefers Arthur.
He says to the camera, “The only thing keeping us together is our child.” He then says to her about how during quarantine, he’ll miss the routine of leaving the house. “Just saying goodbye to you [to go to work] is the best part of my day!” She snaps back and says to the camera, “Just being in the same room as him is like a sadness and a soul stink both mixed together.”
The insults don’t end there. He says to her, “I hate your face.” She replies, “When I look at you, I get the exact same feeling as my dead dad’s cancer.” They both trade these types of verbal barbs while looking at each other or acting as if the other person isn’t there and talking directly to the camera.
How did these two miserable people end up together? They tell their “love story” in bits and pieces, during their conversations and monologues. Like many romances that turn sour, things started out wonderfully. They had an “opposites attract” relationship where their differences seemed charming to each other in the beginning. And they definitely fell in love.
However, even early on in their relationship, they disagreed and argued over fundamental things. A turning point in their courtship happened when a hipster friend of theirs named Nathan convinced the couple to go on a New Age type of rustic retreat with Nathan and some other people. During this retreat, the participants were required to get up early one morning to harvest mushrooms.
The male partner in the couple got food poisoning from eating the mushrooms. His food poisoning was so severe that he needed hospital treatment. And describing it all these years later, he says it felt like a near-death experience. Because of this health scare, the couple decided to have a child together.
Artie or Arthur is a fairly quiet child who can occasionally be seen eavesdropping on some of his parents’ arguments. They seem to be aware that he listens in on them talking because they sometimes lower their voice when they say things they don’t want their son to hear. And the man in the couple thinks that Artie is a little strange, but when he talks about it with his partner, this father often over-compensates by raising his voice to praise Artie in case the child can hear nearby.
In the beginning of the movie, the man tells his partner about a recent trip to a grocery store, where he wanted to buy aubergines to cook for their son. He saw a grocery store employee with a large stock of aubergines and asked her if any were available to buy. She says no, because another employee who recently got infected with COVID-19 could have handled this produce, and the store is investigating to find out if the aubergines would be safe to sell.
The man in the relationship practically brags with glee about how he verbally abused this grocery store employee when she declined to take £1,000 that he offered to get her to give him one of the aubergines. He says that he called this employee a “big-nosed prick” and a “fucking loser.” And to further demean her, he also said: “This is the reason why you’re stuck in this shitty job, and I’ve got an E-Class [Mercedes] Benz waiting for me outside!” He also said that he dropped all of his groceries on the floor and then walked out.
The man’s partner is so horrified and disgusted by hearing this story that she walks away. It’s meant to demonstrate how callous and condescending he can be. But over time, things happen during the pandemic that teach him some humility and appreciation for people and things that he took for granted. The man in this relationship has a more transformative arc than the woman during the pandemic lockdown.
Throughout this one-year period that’s depicted in “Together,” the couple experiences more ups and downs, including news that a few people they know have been infected with COVID-19. They argue some more, make up, and then argue again. It seems to be a pattern in their relationship that gives them a lot of stress, but it’s something that they’re oddly comfortable with because that’s all they know in how to communicate with each other.
Artie has only one grandparent: his mother’s widowed mother. The parents of Artie’s father are deceased. Artie is very close to his maternal grandmother, who needs nursing care and cannot visit during the quarantine lockdown. Artie’s mother is very worried about what will happen to her mother, who has another daughter who also lives in the United Kingdom. A decision is made on whether or not the grandmother should continue to receive care at home or should be moved to a nursing care facility.
Although none of this couple’s relatives is seen in the movie, the types of relationships that Artie’s mother has with her sister and mother have a deep emotional effect on her. It’s not stated if the man in the relationship has any living relatives. This movie’s lack of a family background for the male protagonsist is a minor screenplay flaw that can easily be forgiven because his character’s personality is so vivid (as unlikable as he can be) and very realistic to how a lot of insecure people behave.
The woman in the relationship isn’t a saint either, since she and her partner say some awful, hateful things to each other. Her main personality flaw is that she doesn’t like to show vulnerabilities and puts up a front that she can handle anything at any time. And that “stiff upper lip” façade might come crashing down on her.
One of the criticisms that “Together” might get is how the couple’s son is mostly in the background during this story of a family that’s supposed to be in lockdown together. The parents do seem self-absorbed, but they are not neglectful, since there are scenes where they interact lovingly with their son. However, it’s easy to see why the filmmakers didn’t want Artie/Arthur to say or do much in this story, because the movie’s focus is on how these squabbling parents are dealing with their own issues that have nothing to do with their son.
Because these two adult characters are front and center for the entire movie, viewer enjoyment of “Together” will be affected by how much someone is willing to spend 92 minutes going on a talkative roller coaster ride of a couple whose relationship always seems on the verge of collapse. Fortunately, Kelly’s witty screenplay gives McAvoy and Horgan an ideal platform to showcase their considerable acting chops. It’s a ride that is sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes amusing, but it’s definitely not boring.
Bleecker Street released “Together” in select U.S. cinemas on August 27, 2021. The movie is set for release on digital and VOD on September 17, 2021. BBC iPlayer premiered the movie in the United Kingdom on June 17, 2021.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Wuhan, China, from January to March 2020, the dramatic film “Chinese Doctors” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: During the several weeks that Wuhan was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous doctors and patients at a local hospital fight the devastating effects of the pandemic, including sudden deaths, problems with patient overcrowding, a shortage of hospital workers, staffers who are overworked, and various disagreements related to health care and their personal lives.
Culture Audience: “Chinese Doctors” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in a very melodramatic and unrealistically trite version of the COVID-19 crisis in Wuhan.
“Chinese Doctors” horrifically exploits the tragedies of the COVID-19 pandemic by being an unrealistic soap opera about what happened in Wuhan, China, when the city was at the epicenter of the pandemic in the first three months of 2020. Most of the movie is set in an unnamed hospital that quickly becomes overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients in the hospital. Instead of giving valuable and informative re-enactments of what really happened in a Wuhan hospital, “Chinese Doctors” (directed by Andrew Lau and written by Yonggan Yu) presents an accelerated version of a disaster movie, where deaths are just used as drive-by spectacles.
This movie has an abundance of ridiculous, eye-rolling scenes that undermine the seriousness of the subject matter. For example, in real life, numerous infected people showed up at hospitals but were turned away because there was no room. No one rioted over it.
However, in “Chinese Doctors,” this scenario is filmed like an angry mob scene where infected people stormed into the hospital. At one point, the mob becomes so hostile, that a doctor stands up on a table and uses a megaphone to shout: “Do you want to live?” And she makes a threat that if people don’t calm down, “I’ll get even with you!”
It’s a movie where people do perky group dances together in an overcrowded hospital while patients are dying around them. It’s a movie where a doctor yells jubilantly to COVID-19 patients, “We’ll get everyone cured as soon as possible!” (Never mind that while all of this is happening in early 2020, there is no cure for COVID-19 or even a vaccine.) And it’s a movie that seems to revel in its shameless, tacky exploitation.
Aside from the tawdry soap opera elements to the story, the movie’s gaudy cinematography and quick-cut editing are in very poor taste because they emulate music videos or commercials in what’s supposed to be a dramatic film about a deadly pandemic. The death scenes in “Chinese Doctors” are used only as backdrops to the bickering, emotional breakdowns and ego posturing of the doctors. And there are at least two instances where the audience is manipulated into thinking that someone has died in the hospital from COVID-19, but it’s a fake plot development because the person or persons end up surviving.
The movie features several doctors and patients, but only some of them get enough screen time so that viewers get to know their personalities. These characters are:
Zhang Jingyu (played by Zhang Hanyu), the hospital’s chief doctor, who is in his 50s and who has a compassionate but firm personality. His wife ends up becoming a COVID-19 patient.
Wen Ting (played by Yuan Quan), a no-nonsense taskmaster in her 40s and who is the highest-ranking female doctor on the hospital’s COVID-19 crisis team. She’s the doctor from the aformentioned scene where she shouted threats to a mob of people in the hospital who demanded service.
Tao Jun (played by Zhu Yawen), an arrogant doctor in his 30s who arrives from a prestigious hospital in Guangzhou and almost immediately clashes with Dr. Zhang.
Yang Xiaoyang (played by Jackson Yee), a nervous doctor in his 20s who is eager to impress his more experienced colleagues.
Wu Chenguang (played by Li Chen), an even-tempered doctor in his 40s who is a trusted colleague of Dr. Zhang.
Jin Zai (played by Ou Hao), a food delivery guy in his 20s who is certain he won’t get infected because he’s very careful about wearing as much personal protective equipment (PPE) as possible.
Xiao Wen (played by Zhou Ye), Jin Zai’s wife, who is in her 20s and is about nine months pregnant with their first child, whom they already know will be a daughter.
There are the predictable frantic scenes of doctors trying to keep up with the overflow of patients coming into the hospital and worrying about running out of PPE, medicine, supplies and other necessities. Dr. Zhang leads a task force to recruit volunteer medical workers from other hospitals. It’s how Dr. Tao ends up at Dr. Zhang’s hospital. These two “alpha males” argue with each other about how things are supposed to be done.
Meanwhile, there’s a scene of a female doctor having a tearful meltdown because she hasn’t been able to go home and hasn’t seen her family for days. She’s scolded by another doctor (played by Liang Dawei), who says that everyone is in the same situation. He’s later embarrassed when he finds out from another colleague that the crying doctor’s father recently tested positive for COVID-19. The movie makes a point of showing that the doctors and other hospital workers have worn masks for so long, the masks have left temporary scars on their faces.
The beginning of the movie makes it look like random people could just show up at the hospital, like they would at a shopping mall. But in reality, hospitals during the worst of the COVID-19 crisis were very strict from the beginning about who was let inside the already over-crowded hospitals during this crisis. We’ve all heard the horror stories about people who weren’t allowed to visit their loved ones who were COVID-19 patients dying in hospitals. It isn’t until later in the movie that these restrictions are depicted, such as when Dr. Zhang has to talk to his coronavirus-stricken wife through videoconferencing on her cell phone while she was confined to a hospital bed.
As for expectant parents Jin Zai and Xiao Wen, their story is the most manipulative one in the film. Jin Zai is very confident in thinking that he won’t get infected (he wears a mask and gloves while working), even though his job requires him to interact with strangers when Wuhan was on a quarantine lockdown. And when someone in a trashy COVID-19 melodrama is absolutely sure that they won’t get infected, you can easily predict what ends up happening to that person.
“Chinese Doctors” is cynically being marketed as a noble tribute to the doctors and all the other health care workers who made huge sacrifices to help patients during this crisis that turned into a pandemic. In reality, it’s a sloppily made, cash grab melodrama that uses COVID-19 as a gimmick. The real-life hospital workers, other caregivers and patients deserve a better movie. For an accurate look at a Wuhan hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, watch the noteworthy 2020 documentary “76 Days.”
CMC Pictures released “Chinese Doctors” in select U.S. cinemas on July 30, 2021. The movie was released in China on July 9, 2021.
Culture Representation: Taking place over two days in June 2020, mainly in New York City, as as well as in Florida, Los Angeles, and the United Kingdom, the comedy/drama film “As of Yet” (or “as of yet,” as the movie’s title is sometimes styled) features a predominantly African American cast of characters (with two white people and one Asian), representing the middle-class.
Culture Clash: During her COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, a woman in her 20s has dilemmas about two people in her life: her overly possessive roommate (who’s been her best friend since college) and a potential new love interest, who would be the first in-person date she’s had since the quarantine began.
Culture Audience: “As of Yet” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in watching a realistic and minimalist quarantine comedy/drama that explores issues related to dating, friendships and family.
There have been several scripted movies that take place during the COVID-19 pandemic that have attempted to depict authentic quarantine experiences. The comedy/drama “As of Yet” is one of the few that gets it right. It’s a witty, warm and relatable film that doesn’t try to scare people into thinking that someone is going to die at any moment in the movie. Instead, the only fear that’s portrayed in the movie is the fear of letting go of a co-dependent but toxic best friend, as well as how dating a potential new love interest might affect the friendship. It’s a movie that’s filled with various conversations held over Zoom and FaceTime, but the story will connect on a deeper level with audiences who understand that’s it’s really about reflecting on life priorities.
Taylor Garron is the star, writer, co-director and one of the producers of “As of Yet,” which is the feature-film directorial debut of Garron, who co-directed with Chanel James. “As of Yet” is an impressive directorial debut, even if it didn’t have a COVID-19 pandemic setting. Garron’s writing is emotionally intelligent and appealing to anyone who wants to see people in scripted movies act and talk like how college-educated people in the real world talk. The fact that most of the cast members are black is a bonus for the film. “As of Yet” had its world premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Garron and James won the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival’s Nora Ephron Award, a prize given to emerging female filmmakers.
“As of Yet” admirably and skillfully shows a very real and vibrant part of black culture that rarely gets showcased in movies and doesn’t fall into the same, over-used negative sterotypes that movies have of black people. Nowhere in this movie is anyone portrayed as a criminal, poor or a struggling single parent. Portraying black people as second-class citizens is too often the narrative for a movie where the central character is black and living in a big city, even though most black people in America are not criminals, poor or struggling single parents. A movie starring a black woman usually centers the story on either pain or anger, but Garron refuses to go down that road that often leads to exploitation.
Instead, Garron’s Naomi Parson character (the movie’s protagonist, who’s in her mid-20s) is a relatively happy person who’s got a pretty great life, all things considered. She’s an actress who has loving and supportive family members and friends. She’s healthy. She’s college-educated. And she lives in a comfortable apartment in a quiet, tree-lined street in New York City’s Brooklyn borough. She’s staying safe in the middle of a deadly pandemic, but don’t expect this movie to kill her off or for her to get bad medical news—two other over-used negative tropes for black people with prominent roles in movies.
“As of Yet,” which takes place over two days and two nights, begins on Day 83 of Naomi’s quarantine. There are two types of videos in the movie: Naomi’s private video diaries and the video conversations that she has on Zoom and FaceTime. Naomi is an actress on an unnamed TV series that is currently on hiatus due to the pandemic. She’s been receiving unemployment benefits in the meantime. And she’s proud to have a reached a milestone in her finances: She now has about $10,000 in personal savings.
The movie doesn’t mention what college Naomi went to, but it’s mentioned that it was a four-year university in Amherst, Massachusetts. It’s where she met her white best friend/roommate Sara (played by Eva Victor), who is currently and temporarily staying with Sara’s parents in Florida. The movie never mentions what Sara does for a living, but she’s very spoiled, and she talks in that snotty tone of voice that sounds like she watches too much of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and “The Real Housewives.” In fact, after watching Sara and her manipulations in this movie, Sara seems like someone who would fit right in on a reality show about self-centered, catty women.
The first 10 minutes of “As of Yet” could be a little bit of turnoff to viewers who might think this is a movie that looks like any of the millions of social media video conversations made by young people who babble on about potential love interests or what their party plans are. But the movie gets much better as it goes along. It becomes a riveting character study of a woman finding her way through her post-college identity.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a big conversation topic in “As of Yet,” but it’s not the movie’s only focus. Many of the issues brought forth are issues that were going on in Naomi’s life before the pandemic. The pandemic is often used as a reason for certain people’s words and actions. But the pandemic can also force people to evaluate certain things in their lives.
Naomi faces that type of personal reckoning when it to comes to her friendship with Sara. The main dilemma that Naomi has is deciding if her friendship with Sara is worth keeping. It’s a very co-dependent, lopsided relationship where Naomi does a lot of the giving, and Sara does a lot of the taking.
As Naomi says in her video diary near the beginning of the movie: “I really miss Sara.” Sara’s quarantine with her parents is the longest that Naomi and Sara have been apart. This period of time apart has given Naomi some room to relax and some room to worry about what her life would be like without her best friend.
During a video chat, where Sara drones on mostly about herself, she comes up with the idea of hosting a “welcome back” dinner party for herself and Naomi when Sara comes back to New York. Sara describes the party as a way to “celebrate our friendship, but it’s also about me a little bit.” Sara mentions that she can steal some of her mother’s inferior wine and bring it to the party. She also laughs when she pictures her mother finding the wine missing and how it will be fun to think about how annoyed her mother would be if her mother knew what happened to the wine.
One of the ways that the movie shows how Sara and Naomi are very different from each other and incompatible is when they talk about the Black Lives Matter protests over the deaths of George Floyd and other black people who were victims of police brutality. Naomi has been participating in these protests on the streets of New York City. She mentions that she always wears masks when she’s out in public.
Sara has a slightly disgusted and annoyed expression on her face when the Black Lives Matter protests are brought up in the conversation. She asks Naomi if it’s scary to be part of the protests. Naomi says it’s not scary. But later, in another conversation with two of her black female friends who are protesters in Los Angeles, they candidly discuss witnessing police brutality at the protests.
Naomi and Sara talk about the difference between peaceful protesting and rioting. Sara is inclined to think that rioters are part of the protest movement, while Naomi says that most rioters are not part of Black Lives Matter and other activist movements. Naomi does concede that when it comes to activism, she thinks, “You have to be a little violent to get things done.” The awkward silence and expression on Sara’s face say a lot after Naomi makes that comment.
During Naomi and Sara’s conversation, they also talk about a man in hs 20s named Reed, whom Naomi has been talking to online for the past four months. Because of the quarantine, Naomi and Reed haven’t been able to meet in person for a date yet, but they hope to do so in the near future. It would be Naomi’s first in-person date since the pandemic lockdown began. Instead of being happy for Naomi and telling her to be safe, Sara acts as if Naomi is going to put Sara’s life in serious jeopardy by being in contact with someone who doesn’t live in their household.
Sara puts up such a fuss about it that it unnerves Naomi. The rest of the movie shows Naomi debating with herself and other people if she should meet Reed for a date in person and if she should tell Sara about it. It’s not a problem that’s as superficial as it sounds. Viewers will see that how Naomi handles this date dilemma is a manifestation of how she’s been handling a lot of the control issues going in her friendship with Sara and how Naomi feels about herself.
“As of Yet” has a very small number of people in its cast, which will make this movie very easy to follow. Besides Sara, the other people Naomi talk to about Sara and Reed are:
Reed (played by Amir Khan), a geeky, long-haired “nice guy” who works in some kind of computer tech job. Since the quarantine, he’s been working from home and rewatching “Survivor” reruns.
Sadie (played by Paula Akpan), Naomi’s British cousin who’s openly queer, very outspoken and someone who definitely doesn’t approve of Sara.
Naomi’s parents, who are unnamed in the movie but are played by Taylor Garron’s real-life parents Colleen Pina Garron and Christopher Garron. Naomi talks to her mother longer in their conversation (her dad briefly pops into the conversation), and Sara’s close and loving relationship with her parents is very evident.
Lyssa (played by Quinta Brunson) and Khadijah (played by Ayo Edebiri), two of Naomi’s friends in Los Angeles. They both don’t like Sara because they think she makes Naomi feel insecure and anxious. Khadijah is more blunt and forthcoming than Lyssa in giving advice to Naomi on what to do about Sara.
An unnamed neighbor (played by Anthony Allman), who Naomi talks to randomly when he pokes her head out of her apartment window and sees him walking down the street.
During these conversations, viewers find out more things about Naomi. Her family has origins in Cape Verde. Her parents are passionate about social causes, and Naomi got her interest in being a civil rights activist from her parents. She’s a very loyal, funny and caring person. Her willingness to put the needs of others before her own needs is a virtue, but it can also be a fault because people like Sara have taken advantage of it. Naomi hints at past romances and heartbreaks because she made the mistake of trusting the wrong people.
Naomi loves to talk and has a very quick-witted, self-deprecating sense of humor. Reed is quieter and more laid-back. Reed and Naomi both like watching TV and they appreciate each other’s offbeat geekiness over TV shows. Naomi has an interesting quirk of having only watched one movie in her life: the 1995 comedy “Heavyweights,” starring Ben Stiller and Kenan Thompson, about a group of overweight teens sent to a weight-loss camp that’s run by a psycho fitness instructor.
Naomi and Reed’s conversations in the movie show that they have a comfortable rapport with each other, and they can make each other laugh. However, viewers will wonder how well Naomi really knows Reed. Have they had meaningful conversations that go deeper than joking around and talking about what TV shows they like to watch? Are they compatible, in terms of lifestyles and life goals? This movie offers no real answers to those questions, because it’s just a glimpse into Naomi’s life over a two-day period.
One of the most outstanding things about “As of Yet” is how all the conversations look authentic, almost like a documentary. It’s one thing for the screenplay to be well-written (and it is), but the cast members should also get credit for delivering the lines in a very naturalistic and convincing way. There isn’t one moment in this movie that looks overly staged and overly rehearsed.
And there are many details that add to the authenticity. Naomi isn’t afraid to be shown from some unflattering camera angles. At one point in the movie, her armpit hair is showing (but not during her conversations with Reed), and her mother reminds Naomi to shave her armpits before she meets Reed in person.
The movie also doesn’t shy away from the topic of race. When Naomi tells her family members and black friends about Reed, one of the first questions they ask is if Reed is black. Naomi talks about the Black Lives Matter protests in a different and more unguarded way with her black friends than she does with Sara. Naomi’s mother also tells her a great anecdote about her childhood experiences with the Black Panthers.
The movie’s one detail about race that might raise questions with viewers is why Naomi hasn’t asked Reed yet what race he is. (He’s American and his family’s ethnicity appears to be South Asian or possibly from the Middle East.) If you’ve been chatting with someone for several months and plan to go on a date with each other, it’s not unreasonable to ask that person what their racial/ethnic heritage is, as part of the “getting to know you” process.
Naomi says she hasn’t asked Reed because she thinks it would be rude to ask. But it kind of contradicts how Naomi keeps bragging to her loved ones about how she knows Reed well enough that she thinks he’s a good guy who would be safe to date. The fact that she’s afraid to ask Reed what race he is will make people wonder what other basic and reasonable questions Naomi hasn’t asked him.
It’s another layer to the story in “As of Yet,” which shows how in the early months of the pandemic, single people were trying to adjust to how dating was affected by the pandemic quarantine. Naomi has to grapple with these questions: What’s the proper etiquette of a first date, when it comes to mask wearing and social distancing? Is it really a good idea to date somene new during a lockdown quarantine?
How do you know who’s really safe and not infected, when COVID-19 test results are only valid for a very limited time? (And keep in mind, this movie takes place before any COVID-19 vaccines were available.) It’s a question that Naomi can’t really answer about Reed, but she makes several comments in her conversations that she’s sure that Reed is “safe,” just because he told her so.
Actually, she doesn’t know for sure if Reed has COVID-19 or not. Taking people’s word for it without proof is one of the main reasons why a lot of people got infected with COVID-19. And lot of people who infected others didn’t know they had COVID-19 because they didn’t show any symptoms at the time.
Naomi’s blind trust in Reed’s COVID-19 status is an example of her trusting nature, just like Sara’s overreaction to Naomi possibly dating someone new during the quarantine is an example of her jealous and controlling nature. Viewers will find out how much of a loathsome hypocrite Sara is when it comes to COVID-19 safety. (It’s slight spoiler information that won’t be revealed in this review.)
Because “As of Yet” is a movie that takes place mostly on computer screens in people’s middle-class homes, there’s no flashy cinematography, elaborate set designs or fancy costumes. “As of Yet,” which is more suspenseful than people might think it would be, excels mainly because of the screenwriting and how well the cast members bring their characters to life. The movie might not satisfy people who want a predictable conclusion, but “As of Yet” will keep viewers entertained with some lively conversations along the way.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Thermal, California, the romantic comedy film “7 Days” features a predominantly Indian and Indian American cast of characters (with a few white people who speak off camera) representing the middle-class.
Culture Clash: Two Indian Americans, whose parents are eager for them to find a spouse, meet on a blind date at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and find out that instead of having many things in common, they are complete opposites.
Culture Audience: “7 Days” will appeal primarily to people who like quirky romantic comedies with an “opposites attract” or COVID-19 pandemic angle, but the movie is often sluggishly paced and relies too much on stereotypes seen in many other romantic comedies.
It’s a little tiresome when American-made movies and TV programs stereotype men of Indian heritage as socially awkward, sometimes emasculated nerds. This over-used ethnic cliché is shoved in viewers’ faces to annoying levels in the romantic comedy “7 Days,” co-starring Karan Soni as a lovelorn Indian American who’s desperately looking for a wife. Geraldine Viswanathan plays his would-be love interest in the movie, but the story is told from the man’s perspective. “7 Days” had its world premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.
Directed by Roshan Sethi (who co-wrote the “7 Days” screenplay with Soni), “7 Days” is essentially a dull mumblecore movie with a COVID-19 gimmick. The movie is also Sethi’s feature-film directorial debut. And it just so happens that all of the people who appear on camera in the movie are of Indian heritage. This type of representation is rare for an American-made feature film, but it’s not enough to automatically guarantee that the movie will be great.
Unfortunately, “7 Days” has too many scenes that drag with dialogue that falls flat because of the clumsy comedic timing. Viswanathan seems to be more talented at believable facial expressions than Soni is, but there is no convincing romantic chemistry between these two actors at all. Whatever is going on between the characters that Soni and Viswanathan portray in the movie, viewers will get the impression that this isn’t a romance to root for but it’s going to be strictly a “friend zone” platonic relationship. The filmmakers want to make it look like a romance, but it’s all so phony and passionless.
The beginning of “7 Days” starts off with four real-life, middle-aged, happily married Indian couples talking about how they met, which was usually through arrangements by their families. (Soni’s parents are among the couples.) It’s an adorable introduction, but then the movie gets right to the fictional part of the story and the clichés. The next sequence is straight out of a Bollywood rom-com. Viewers find out that two unmarried young people have mothers who are scheming to find each of them a suitable spouse.
The bachelor and bachelorette are American children of Indian immigrants. The would-be couple are 31-year-old Ravi (played by Soni) and 28-year-old Rita (played by Viswanathan), who both live in California, but not in cities that are near each other. In voiceover narration, Ravi’s mother (played by Gita Reddy) and Rita’s mother (played by Zenobia Shroff) extol the attractive qualities of their respective children, as if they’re creating profiles for them on Indian matchmatching sites. (The mothers in this story do not have names.)
According to Ravi’s mother, Ravi is the youngest and her favorite of her three sons because he’s the most emotionally mature. Ravi works as a researcher at a local university. His mother describes him as kind and responsible. And he loves to cook vegetarian food.
According to Rita’s mother, Rita is a “free-spirit girl with strict moral values” whose hobbies include “caring for her future in-laws.” As for Rita’s food preferences, her mother says that Rita is a pescatarian, but she’s willing to be a vegetarian for the right family. Rita seems to be an only child, since there’s no mention of her having siblings.
In addition to having family members who play matchmaker, Ravi and Rita belong to several Indian-oriented dating sites. Ravi and Rita’s first date (a blind date) takes place in March 2020, during the first week of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns in the United States. Ravi has traveled to Thermal, California, where Rita lives. And their first uncomfortable date is a picnic in an empty reservoir. Rita and Ravi are both wearing face masks, while Ravi also has on latex gloves.
Ravi is the epitome of an insecure, neurotic dork who has lived a very sheltered life. He says things that he thinks people want to hear so that they will like and accept him. And he often over-apologizes to the point that it gets irritating. In other words, he’s a typical sensitive male protagonist in a mumblecore movie.
Rita is more self-assured than Ravi, but she also has her insecurity issues. One of them is that she lives a double life. She presents herself as a straight-laced person to her parents, who don’t live near her, but she’s very different in real life. Rita is an unemployed slob whose parents are paying for her living expenses.
The conversation during Ravi and Rita’s picnic date doesn’t go very well. Ravi is nervous and sweaty. He tells a dumb joke about how he’s sweating just like he would in India. Rita seems unimpressed by Ravi. He’s also very conscious of following social distancing guidelines of staying at least six feet apart. At one point, he says to Rita with a forced laugh: “You’re so funny. We have great banter. Can you move back a few inches?”
Ravi likes to eat healthy food, and he doesn’t drink alcohol. He’s under the impression that Rita is also a teetotaler. When he brings out some lemonade in aluminum cans, Ravi is mortified to see that it’s hard lemonade.
He thinks he might have offended Rita for bringing alcoholic beverages on this date. He makes a profuse apology by saying that when he got the lemonade from the store, he didn’t look closely at the cans to see what type of lemonade it was. Rita tells him not to worry about it, but Ravi is the type of person who will worry about it.
This picnic date at the reservoir isn’t fun at all, so Rita suggests that they go back to her place. She lives in a middle-class house that looks tidy on the outside, but it’s very cluttered and unkempt on the inside. Rita is the type of person who will leave food wrappers, empty beer bottles and other garbage on tables and on the floor. It’s the first clue that Ravi and viewers have that Rita’s life, just like her house, is messy.
When they arrive at the house, Rita and Ravi both call their respective mothers to give them a summary of how the date is going so far. Even though there are no romantic sparks between Ravi and Rita, they both tell their mothers that this date has potential. Ravi is more invested because he’s traveled a long distance to meet Rita. And he’s the one who wants to get married in the near future.
Ravi doesn’t waste time in telling Rita what his life goals are: He’s soon going to buy a house, he wants to get married that year, and he wants to start a family the following year. He also plans to have three kids. Because Rita and Ravi met as a result of their mothers’ matchmaking efforts, it’s not considered too forward for Ravi to already be talking marriage on the first date. In fact, by traditional Indian custom, it’s not unusual at all.
As can happen in a very unrealistically contrived movie like “7 Days,” Ravi finds out that his rental car won’t be available until the next morning, so he won’t be able to drive back home that night. Rita recommends a hotel nearby where he can stay for the night. Ravi calls the hotel and finds out it will be closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ravi doesn’t do what most people would do: Make a reservation at another hotel.
In reality (not in this movie), during the pandemic lockdown period, most hotels were still open and desperate for business. Hotels had plenty of vacancies because they experienced an enormous number of reservation cancellations during the lockdown period. But that reality is not in “7 Days,” because the entire movie is based on the contrivance of Ravi staying at Rita’s place so that the story can go exactly where you know it’s going to go.
At first, Ravi says he’s only going to stay until his rental car is ready. But the title of the movie already telegraphs how many days he’s really going to stay at Rita’s place. And in a formulaic rom-com like this one, that means he’s supposed to go through several uncomfortable moments because he and Rita are opposites.
The unrealistic plot developments continue. Ravi finds out that his rental car won’t be ready for three days, which is really the movie’s way of extending the time that Ravi has to stay at Rita’s house. And because there’s a “shelter in place” quarantine mandate in California, Ravi and Rita don’t go outside for most of the movie.
The “uptight nerd having awkward moments with the uninhibited love interest” is an angle that’s been done in many other rom-coms, and it’s played up to repetitive and ultimately tedious levels in “7 Days.” After Rita agrees to let Ravi temporarily stay at her house, he goes in the bathroom and is horrified to see a dildo on the sink. “Oh, this can’t be happening,” Ravi says to himself, as if he’s just seen a real body part.
Soon after Ravi finds out that he’s going to be staying at Rita’s place, he starts to really regret it. It’s because he overhears Rita on the phone, having raunchy sex talk with someone she calls “Daddy.” At first, Ravi thinks that Rita is talking to her father in an incestuous way. Ravi is naturally shocked and disgusted, but he made a wrong assumption.
Rita is actually talking to her older married lover who’s separated from his wife, but this married lover is vague with Rita on when he’s going to divorce his wife. He seems to be leading Rita on with an excuse that things are complicated for him in his marriage. “Daddy” never appears on camera in the movie and his real name is never revealed. He’s voiced by Mark Duplass, one of the executive producers of “7 Days,” who’s an actor/filmmaker with a lot of mumblecore movies in his filmography.
Most of Ravi and Rita’s interactions consist of more painfully unfunny banter. It isn’t long before Ravi finds out that Rita is almost everything that he doesn’t want in a woman: Rita says she never wants to get married. She drinks a lot of alcohol. And she loves junk food. There’s a scene where Rita enthusiastically eats fried chicken, even though her online profile says that she’s a pescatarian.
Ravi’s and Rita’s lifestyle differences also extend to the type of movies that they like to watch. Ravi is a big fan of Bollywood movies, but Rita doesn’t care for this type of entertainment. She’s a lot more into American culture overall than Ravi is. And she seems to be faking to her parents that she’s interested in the Indian tradition of arranged marriages, because she doesn’t want to lose her parents’ financial support.
Issues of gender roles inevitably come up, as they tend to do in rom-coms. Ravi makes an offhand remark that Rita’s voice sounds like the instructional service app Siri. Rita immediately gets defensive and says, “You mean I sound subservient.” Ravi tells Rita that he identifies as a “male feminist.” Still, Ravi is slightly alarmed and surprised that Rita doesn’t like to cook. And he ends up cooking for both of them.
Rita has this to say to Ravi about why she doesn’t see marriage in her future: “It’s just someone else to fight and disappoint and hate. It’s exhausting.” And when fidgety Ravi gets restless in the house, Rita suggests that they just sit around and do nothing. “The less you do, the less you do,” she says.
This type of boring and witless dialogue goes on for much of the movie. Predictably, Rita spikes Ravi’s drink with alcohol to loosen him up. He gets angry that she spiked his drink, but then he gets drunk and does an atrocious standup comedy routine for Rita. While under the influence of alcohol, Ravi opens up about feeling vulnerable and self-conscious that his parents are divorced.
And then, someone in this mismatched duo starts having a persistent cough and develops a fever. And you know what that means in a rom-com with a COVID-19 gimmick. This plot development isn’t handled very well in the movie. “7 Days” essentially dismisses all the deaths and tragedies that people have experienced because of this pandemic and treats this harsh reality as something that would get in the way of a cutesy rom-com plot. If anyone dies of COVID-19 in this movie, it’s a tragedy that this movie brushes off as trivial.
Even in March 2020, during the early part of the pandemic when this movie takes place, people were aware of how quickly large numbers of people were dying from COVID-19. But in this movie, Ravi and Rita are depicted as being in a self-absorbed (and irresponsible) “bubble” where they don’t care to be informed about what’s happening in the news about the pandemic. They’re more concerned about doing things like a virtual exercise workout routine using Rita’s laptop computer.
Viswanathan and Soni are very talented and have had more appealing roles elsewhere. In “7 Days,” they both play characters that just aren’t credible as a romantic couple. Ravi’s neuroses are on full display, but Rita is an underwritten and underdeveloped character. She’s supposed to be the “wacky one” in the relationship, but her personality is ultimately hollow.
Viewers never find out why Rita wants to live an aimless, unemployed life. Her hopes and dreams are never mentioned. How she was raised by her parents, her work history and her social life (other than her affair with “Daddy”) remain a mystery. By the end of the movie, viewers still won’t know much about Rita.
And when you have a romantic comedy where one of the people in the would-be couple remains an enigma, the dialogue is wretchedly monotonous, and there’s no realistic chemistry between the two main actors who are supposed to be this couple, the end result is a disappointing and off-kilter rom-com that isn’t funny or romantic.
UPDATE: Cinedigm will release “7 Days” in select U.S. cinemas on March 25, 2022. The movie will be released on digital and VOD on April 26, 2022.