While everyone across the world is impacted by COVID-19, not everyone experiences it the same way. For essential workers in the U.S., it can mean facing angry customers who refuse to wear masks daily. For students, it can mean taking your education online, engaging with classmates and teachers through a screen. For healthcare workers, it can mean putting on extra layers of protective gear to face the pandemic and care for patients, while in fear of passing the deadly virus to loved ones due to high exposure. With the virus originating from Wuhan, China, no one knows these fears better than the frontline healthcare workers who have dedicated restless days and nights to recover from the outbreak.
Directed by Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, and a third anonymous person, 76 Days brings viewers along into the epicenter of COVID-19’s origin, where healthcare workers from Wuhan, Sichuan, and Shanghai worked tirelessly to save patients suffering from the respiratory disease. Filmed across four different hospitals in Wuhan, the documentary brings the audience on an emotional journey, showcasing the various stories of patients and nurses dealing with the pandemic. In the end, some are grateful to return home to their loved ones, while others spend their last days in solitude as they pass away in the hospital, locked in with no visitors allowed. The movie focuses, in particular, on an elderly grandfather with dementia who is constantly trying to escape and return home, an elderly couple in which the husband’s condition worsens as his wife’s improves, an expecting couple who is separated from their newborn as the mother is diagnosed with the disease, and an elderly woman whose tight grip on her nurse’s hand slowly loosens. While caring for these patients, viewers also see the daily life of persevering nurses, doctors, and volunteers, who are devoted to their patients until even past their last breaths, helping patients video chat or see videos of their loved ones, covering their protective gear with silly drawings and phrases to try and lighten the mood, and ensuring relatives receive the belongings of those who have passed.
Filmed from a third person perspective, the documentary produces a raw, authentic look into the harsh realities of COVID-19. The way the camera follows these healthcare workers to see their patients, closing in on their interactions and care, carries the intensity that those physically present must feel. There are moments where the audience may share a small smile while seeing the patients, but there are also times where the audience may shed tears. The film offers no type of sugarcoating, allowing viewers to see the struggles of both patients and nurses, as they all fight to remain positive and calm. The movie is created with a tone of empathy and a sense of urgency, made to capture an unprecedented moment in history and tell its honest tale. With no special effects, the film instead relies on quick attention to detail, showing small but meaningful things such as the crease marks in a nurse’s skin as she removes her warzone-like protective gear for the day, and natural shots in the quiet, empty hallways where the nurses sleep sitting against the walls for a quick break. Rather than trying to create a beautiful shot, those behind the camera were focused on not missing any moment, running along with those combating the pandemic. Through 76 Days, the creators have eternalized an unforgettable period of time, not just for Wuhan, but for the world.