'7 Days' ('Sette giorni'): Film Review | Tallinn 2016

SEVEN DAYS 2 - Still - H - 2016
Peacock Film AG
A lyrical portrait of late summer love.

Swiss director Rolando Colla explores the exquisite agonies of midlife romance in this bittersweet Mediterranean drama.

A pair of world-weary, middle-aged dreamers behave like horny adolescents in Swiss director Rolando Colla’s latest romantic reverie, with predictably messy results. Set on an idyllic Mediterranean island, 7 Days is Colla’s follow-up project to his 2011 coming-of-age drama Summer Games, which screened in Venice and Toronto. Sensually rich and sumptuously shot, this sun-drenched two-hander is a poetic love letter to love itself, but also a wry critique of romantic fantasy. Following its international debut in competition at Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia last week, more festival bookings should follow. The evergreen theme, stunning scenery and hedonistic mood could also boost theatrical prospects.

Bohemian botanist and wild-haired Bruce Springsteen look-alike Ivan (Bruno Todeschini) meets up with elegant costume designer Chiara (Alessia Barela) on Levanzo, a ruggedly beautiful, sparsely inhabited isle off the coast of Sicily. They arrive one week in advance to prepare for the wedding between Ivan’s brother Richard (Marc Barbe) and Chiara’s best friend Francesca (Linda Olsansky). Lodged in a quaint family hotel, surrounded by the deserted island’s last few elderly residents, these French-speaking exiles can hardly help but develop a sizzling sexual tension. Ivan proposes a novel solution: a brief, passionate affair that ends “in full flight” the night before the wedding, then both partners walk away with no regrets. After all, he muses Frenchly, “it’s time that kills love.”

Chiara initially resists Ivan’s indecent proposal but — predictably — she soon surrenders to his louche, unshaven, sulky magnetism. This is Italy, after all. Even more inevitably, their smoking-hot sex sessions bring unseen complications, forcing Ivan to reassess his track record of failed relationships while Chiara weighs up the damage she risks inflicting on her long-term partner and teenage daughter. These tensions reach a crescendo during the climactic wedding sequence, when Ivan's emotionally aloof composure finally cracks as the elderly islanders teach him to value the deeper pleasures of lifelong commitment.

By turns cynical and starry-eyed about the transformative power of love, 7 Days arguably wants to have its cake and eat it, too. The resolution will irritate some, a symbolic gesture which feels dramatically illogical. Colla also relies a little too heavily on audience empathy for Ivan, whose pursuit of Chiara turns increasingly petulant, pushy and entitled. That said, such passive-aggressive charmers clearly exist in real life, and Todeschini’s performance has the grain of authenticity. Indeed, all these midlife party animals are depicted with a pleasingly plausible, unsentimental eye. All have their demons, from past drug addictions to painful family histories. Even in this sunny fairytale setting, there is grit in the honey.

In purely sensory terms, 7 Days is a ravishing feast for the eyes and ears. Colla and his cinematographers, Lorenz Merz and Gabriel Lobos, make full use of the windswept island scenery and shimmering ocean vistas, excelling themselves during several bravura underwater sequences. The story is also saturated in fine music, from achingly lovely Sicilian folk songs performed by the island’s senior citizens to an agreeably unexpected airing of “Human Fly” by cult trash-punks The Cramps. One collective musical number, performed in a flotilla of boats bobbing across a silvery harbor, stands out as an exquisitely lyrical set-piece in a film that is occasionally corny but never less than gorgeous.

Venue: Black Nights Film Festival, Tallinn
Production companies: Peacock Film AG, Solaria Film, Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen, RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera, ARTE, Movimento Film
Cast: Bruno Todeschini, Alessia Barela, Marc Barbe, Linda Olsansky, Gianfelice Imparato
Director: Rolando Colla
Screenwriters: Rolando Colla, Olivier Lorelle, Nicole Borgeat, Heloise Adam
Producers: Elena Pedrazzoli, Emanuele Nespeca, Mario Mazzarotto
Cinematographers: Lorenz Merz, Gabriel Lobos
Editors: Nicolas Chaudeurge, Rolando Colla
Music: Bernd Schurer
Sales company: Film Republic, London

Not rated, 96 minutes