Tommy Wirkola’s 7 Sisters is a dystopian movie that imagines a near future wherein the government restricts everyone to one child per household due to scarcity of resources. I say that the film imagines this future but that isn’t quite right. It would be more accurate to say that 7 Sisters builds its future out of a prepackaged, baby’s first dystopia kit. If you’ve seen any recent film in this genre, be prepared to find no unique contributions to the way we visualize the near future. Its always raining, the colour pallet is washed out and there are plenty of generic protesters that decorate every street corner. There is one novelty though, which is that Noomi Rapace plays every sibling in a family of septuplets that has to rebel against the evil government when one of the sisters goes missing.
The film sees Rapace playing sisters named Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Each sister’s name corresponds to the day of the week that they are allowed to go outside. To get around the government’s one child restriction, grandpa Willem Dafoe comes up with the brilliant (re: preposterous) plan of having each sibling pretend to be the same person, Karen Settman. Monday is the only one who goes outside as Karen on Monday, Tuesday on Tuesday, etc. One day, Monday does not come home from work and the other sisters have to go deep into a web of government corruption to find out what happened to Monday (incidentally, the film was released under the title What Happened to Monday in the United States).
The appeal in a film like this can often be found in watching an actor cut loose and have fun showing off a little bit. That being said, the worst kind of multi-character performances can collapse into a sort of one person pissing contest, where the actor sees just how much ticks, vocal inflections and extra traits they can give each character. Rapace doesn’t fall into that trap, though she may be trying too hard to avoid it. Most of the sisters read as the slight variations on the same person and (especially at the beginning) it can be hard to get a bead on exactly who everyone is and why the audience should care. Get ready to be asking yourself a lot of questions like “wait, which one was Sunday again?” and “was the blonde one named Saturday?”.
The film shines most during its action sequences, which stay grounded in tactile and believable stunt work. There is one sequence in particular that features almost all of the sisters in a big apartment brawl together and it is a lot of fun. It is just a drag that these sequences are not in service of a compelling story. If the film has anything meaningful to say beyond that manipulative, corrupt governments are bad than it was lost on me after the first viewing.
The problem is that my attention waned throughout the film because the combination of a rushed first act and the effort that was required to figure out who everyone was and what was important about them all made for a turbulent viewing experience that stifled my ability to engage with the narrative. There are some moments in the movie that feel like payoffs, but I was too busy trying to remember which Noomi Rapace said which thing at the beginning of the film to understand the dramatic context of the payoff in question. Maybe that is my failure as a viewer but my instincts tell me that Wirkola was not up to the admittedly daunting visual task of distinguishing seven unique characters, all of whom are played by the same restrained actress, from one another in a clear and concise way.
Bottom line, this might be up your alley if you want to a decent, woman led action movie and aren’t feeling picky. I found some things to enjoy but was ultimately put off by the dull, uninspired dystopia that connected a few admittedly compelling actions scenes.