The relationship sensibilities of American and French cultures collide in the new film 5 to 7, in which nascent writer Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin) finds himself drawn into an affair with a French woman, Arielle (Berenice Marlohe). Whether you go along with the premise may depend entirely on which side of the Atlantic you call home.
Thanks to a chance meeting in New York, Brian and Arielle find themselves drawn to each other, except for one little hitch: Arielle is married. However, Arielle and her husband, Valery (Lambert Wilson), subscribe to the very French idea that both husband and wife are permitted to take a lover, but only between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m, every day.
Initially wary of the idea, Brian proceeds to dive in headfirst. He meets Arielle and Valery’s children; becomes friends with Valery’s lover, Jane (Olivia Thirlby); and even introduces Arielle to his parents (Glenn Close and Frank Langella). Could a situation like this actually be tenable, or is enlightenment like this too difficult to attain?
Writer/director Victor Levin definitely has a challenge on his hands convincing audiences of the romanticism of the relationship, one that he initially fails to impart. In an ironic twist, Levin has Brian — who, remember, is a writer — speak in overly wrought voiceovers about the lack of good writing in the world.
He isn’t helped by the somewhat stilted deliveries of Yelchin and Marlohe, who early on are caught in the trap of looking like they’re acting instead of letting the dialogue flow freely. Fortunately, the charms of the story increase as the film goes along, which goes a long way toward overcoming any woodenness that remains.
The story is as unconventional as they come, but the actors, with the help of an ever-present romantic score, manage to sell its virtues. Also helping matters is the fact that Levin never makes the affair overtly about sex. The few bedroom scenes are erotic yet chaste, leaving the two characters to actually develop a relationship instead of having the basis be a purely animal attraction.
Yelchin may not be the ideal person for a role like this, but he brings a certain je ne sais quoi to it that ultimately proves winning. Marlohe brings the requisite French allure to her role, but she provides much more than just looks, turning Arielle into a three-dimensional and complicated woman.
It’s difficult to see 5 to 7 becoming a romantic classic, but for anyone looking to go beyond the bounds of what you’d normally expect from a movie romance, it fits the bill.
5 to 7 is playing at the Sundance Cinemas.