Tribeca Film Review: ‘5 to 7’

'5 to 7' Film Review

Franchise players from 'Star Trek' and 'Skyfall' tumble into an intimate indie love story.

Aspiring novelist Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin) receives nothing but rejection letters from publishers, but when it comes to romance, he has considerably better luck, earning coy encouragement from Arielle (Berenice Marlohe), a beautiful French woman he spies smoking on a New York sidewalk. There’s just one catch: She’s married, and the couple can only meet between the hours of 5 and 7, which isn’t nearly enough to satisfy this smitten scribbler. Courageously sentimental in an age of irony, Victor Levin’s refreshingly articulate “5 to 7” delivers romance of the sort thought lost since the days of Audrey Hepburn, for those who appreciate such finery. And who doesn’t?

Truth be told, the times are startlingly harsh for stories designed to make audiences actually feel something, and “5 to 7” risks ridicule from those who can’t abide Levin’s earnest, heart-on-his-sleeve approach. Like his naive 24-year-old protagonist, Levin would rather crash and burn being true to his heart than risk holding back his emotions, and the result is a film with the power not only to move people, but possibly even to change the way they think about relationships.

As it is, the vast majority of Americans know nothing of “cinq a sept” affairs — an expression that refers to that hazy window of time after leaving work and before arriving home when Parisian gentlemen might visit their mistresses without having to justify their whereabouts. The concept has evolved somewhat in the hands of Arielle and her diplomat husband (played by suave French thesp Lambert Wilson). The couple has agreed to an open relationship, while restricting such extramarital activities to those hours.

Arielle accepts that her husband has a mistress (Olivia Thirlby) and approaches the prospect of taking a lover of her own without guilt or shame. Brian needs a bit more convincing, as do his Jewish parents (Glenn Close and Frank Langella) and most of the pic’s target demographic. He’s not at all comfortable being in an open affair, and he’s doubly disconcerted by the way the cuckold invites him into the fold. Levin’s script privileges the young man’s point of view while being careful not to reduce 33-year-old Arielle to a mere fantasy figure. Their courtship serves as more than just a cultural exchange, though xenophilic auds will delight in the various lifestyle lessons and unsubtitled expressions along the way.

In addition to representing her home country’s less puritanical values, ex-Bond girl Marlohe (“Skyfall”) also signifies an older, more experienced woman: Where baby-faced Yelchin appears appropriately callow, she’s a nouveau Mrs. Robinson, by way of Julie Delpy’s semi-liberated character in the “Before” series. Though we get no sense of Brian’s previous experience with love, we can assume it’s quite limited, just as there can be no doubt that he will look back and draw from their relationship when it comes time to write his novel — making it easy to anticipate that cliche where the blocked writer writes the story we’ve been watching, a trite resolution that Levin manages to finesse in a fresh direction, culminating in one of the loveliest last lines of any film in recent memory.

Incidentally, there are lovely lines throughout the film. Clearly, this is a work of writerly fantasy, where self-deprecating narration doesn’t necessarily contradict one’s ability to win a New Yorker new writer’s award. That’s not to say Levin’s script isn’t informed by poignantly observed truths about real life, including the somewhat corny device of punctuating the film with inscriptions carved into the benches of Central Park.

There is a playfulness and ambition here that mirrors Brian’s state of mind, even if Levin is himself a good deal older. Indeed, his feature debut arrives later than most, after having a couple scripts produced (including “Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!”) and carving out a respectable quarter-century resume in television (on such shows as “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Mad About You” and “Mad Men”), allowing lessons learned both personally and professionally to enrich the material.

That translates to more elegant, traditional decisions in the supporting crafts as well, including his use of a classical-style score from “Martha Marcy May Marlene” composers Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans that borrows heavily (yet well) from “Cinema Paradiso.” Shot in widescreen and edited with a restraint that leaves room for reflection, “5 to 7” allows scenes to play out at a distance without sacrificing intimacy, reserving its closeups for the moments that really matter. Like Marlohe’s character, the film has a heavy French accent, but expresses itself with the eloquence of a native speaker.

Tribeca Film Review: '5 to 7'

Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Spotlight), April 21, 2014. Running time: 98 MIN.

Production

A Mockingbird Pictures, Demarest Films production. (International sales: the Solution Entertainment Group, Los Angeles.) Produced by Julie Lynn, Bonnie Curtis, Sam Englebardt, William D. Johnson. Executive producers, David Greathouse, Ruth Mulch, Benjamin Castellano-Wood, Theresa Castellano-Wood. Co-executive producers, Lisa Wilson, Myles Nestel. Co-producer, Peter Pastorelli.

Crew

Directed, written by Victor Levin. Camera (color, widescreen), Arnaud Potier; editor, Matt Maddox; music, Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans; music supervisor, Laura Katz; production designer, Jeannine Oppewall; costume designer, Heidi Bivens; sound, Ken Ishii; stunt coordinators, Manny Siverio, Elliot Santiago; assistant director, David Blazina.

With

Anton Yelchin, Berenice Marlohe, Lambert Wilson, Olivia Thirlby, Frank Langella, Glenn Close. (English, French dialogue)

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  1. abeatlesfan says:

    sorry I wrote live instead of life!

  2. abeatlesfan says:

    I did enjoy this film very much. I have watched it several times to pick up on things I might have missed and I did miss quite a few things that I realized with the subsequent viewings. I was moved by the emotions of a love that seems to have stood the test of time and other lovers as well as the drudgery that live brings. Yet Arielle wore the ring, years later (although I am not clear on how many years later) and although Brian clearly moved on he did so, as she probably did, with part of his heart eternally craving this one “perfect” love. Naturally I had hoped for a better outcome for these two lovers but that is just the romantic in me. It is sad when love is denied when it is equally felt by both parties.

    I also really thought both actors did a great job but a few things did bother me. The calendar was set in late April early May and yet at their first museum meeting Arielle was wearing a summer dress. It is usually not warm enough at that time. I also thought the casting of the older children made it unclear how old they were. The boy’s quick profile made him look quite older yet his height did not and the daughter’s face was never on screen. I also would have liked a little more information from the time Brian wrote the book till it got published and the time they met at the museum again.

    There was much clever banter and excellent visuals; especially when Brian was reading the goodbye letter; we finally got to see something from Arielle’s point of view which was very important for me.

    Lastly, I was moved very much in the last scene and thought Arielle’s expressions proved to both Brian and the viewer that she loved him still as he loved her. And the look on her face as the movie ended seemed to finally give the viewer the first true sign into the soul of Arielle. For it was clear she was relieved in some way that Brian loved her. At least that is what I thought. Maybe it meant something else but I am not sure if it did.

    It might only be a movie but it succeeded, and the actors succeeded in moving me even on multiple viewings. I really think this movie deserved much more attention. But then again, I am a romantic.

  3. Here we witness some people in love becoming wiser as they spend a couple of hours with each other in their respective Cinq à Sept affairs. This is a film about a writer and the various relatable characters he comes across.

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