Written and directed by Ravin Gandhi, an entrepreneur who burned three weeks of vacation time in order to make it, 100 Days to Live is a micro-budget film that punches well above its weight on many levels. Committed performances, clever plotting, and a tight pace pave over the limitations put in place by its budget. And with the energy of a hungry filmmaker bubbling through every moment, it’s one of those rare shoestring productions that holds the viewer’s interest until the very end.
Rebecca (Heidi Johanningmeier) is a suicide counselor whose experience with grief and loss puts her in a special position to help those in need. She’s managed to move past her demons and has recently found new love in Gabriel (Colin Egglesfield), a man who has also experienced some very serious trauma. All is well until one day, Gabriel goes missing. A cryptic package is left behind in the wake of his disappearance, and it is clear that he’s the latest victim of a prolific, mysterious serial killer, who abducts his victims seemingly in broad daylight. Rebecca, suddenly at a loss both emotionally and professionally, must team up with the cops to first understand, and then locate the man known only as The Savior (Gideon Emery).
Being such a sparse production, there’s really no room for fat on this thing, and that’s much to the film’s benefit. This isn’t to say, however, that the film is basic. In fact, it’s the density of the plotting that takes hold of the viewer when the occasionally flat visuals and drab soundscape don’t. What begins as a simple “catch a bad guy” procedural redefines itself at regular intervals throughout the narrative. There are elements within that you’ve seen before, but not necessarily assembled as such. The resulting film is one that is difficult to define without spoiling, but is extremely watchable due to the fact that it’s hard to know what to expect. What starts as a movie about the “who” of it all soon becomes about the “why” and the “how.” These carrots are dangled efficiently, and done so by a team of actors who work very hard to elevate each moment.
100 Days to Live is fully aware of its financial limitations and smartly chooses to ignore them. So often we see a super-cheapie cut corners in one area to overfund another, resulting in an uneven, rough final product. The willingness to put every resource available equally into each aspect of production manifests on the screen nicely, and it’s hard not to feel swept up in the “I’m gonna make a movie if it’s the last thing I do” of it all.
Gandhi shows a visual intuitiveness that is uncommon in first-time filmmakers, especially those working within such a small timeframe. While the cinematography looks occasionally flat, the shot choices are smartly applied, and draw the eye to subtleties in the performances. A few instances of surrealism are where the cinematography really shines, as well as in how the city is shot. Chicago looks beautiful here, and it’s great to see the Windy City as the backdrop for a story that isn’t expressly about Chicago as a civic center. As a cinephile who lives in Philly, I love seeing my city on screen in a way that feels homely and utilitarian as opposed to gigantically metropolitan. I suspect this would be the same for Chicagoans watching 100 Days to Live.
One hopes Ravin Gandhi has some more vacation time building up, because I’d love to see what he can do next.
After the film, I implore you to stick around and read the credits. Firstly, it’s important to recognize the many people who worked to bring a project like this to life, but there’s also a wonderful message from the filmmaker that I found quite inspiring. 100 Days to Live is proof positive that in the absence of resources, all you really need is a good story and the desire to tell it.
Released for streaming in the United States February 2, 2021.