Saturday 29 April 2017

Movie Review: 5 to 7 (2014)

A romantic drama, 5 to 7 explores a perfect love that just happens to thrive in the most imperfect of circumstances.

In New York City, Brian (Anton Yelchin) is a fledgling writer in his early twenties still waiting for his first publishing break. In front of the St. Regis Hotel he spots Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe), and it's love at first sight for both of them. Arielle is French and nine years older than Brian, which he does not mind. But with the relationship quickly turning serious, he is shocked when she reveals that she is contentedly married to diplomat Valéry (Lambert Wilson) and the mother of two young children.

Arielle educates Brian about the French custom of accepting affairs within marriage, as long as all parties are discreet and respectful, with the extramarital couple traditionally only meeting from 5 to 7 in the afternoon. Brian adapts to the concept, proceeds with the affair within the rules, and even gets to meet Valéry, his lover Jane (Olivia Thirlby), and Arielle's two children. The unusual arrangement completely rattles Brian's father Sam (Frank Langella), but his mother Arlene (Glenn Close) is more understanding. Brian's career catches a break, but as he falls ever so deeply in love with Arielle his delicate romantic arrangement starts to teeter.

Written and directed by Victor Levin, 5 to 7 benefits from exploring a romance with a few relatively original twists. While the New York City setting is familiar, Brian and Arielle navigate around differences in age and culture, her marital status and quite progressive views about the role of love and lovers in life. For long stretches Levin sustains interest not so much because of the love story, but because of where the romance fits into Arielle's life.

Despite the affair unfolding through Brian's eyes, Arielle emerges as a much more compelling character, and Bérénice Marlohe makes the film her own. Seemingly effortlessly, Arielle juggles the role of lover, mentor in affairs of the heart, wife and mother, and Levin succeeds in creating a captivating and stylish woman who can make a young man believe in alternative passion arrangements.

Less convincing is the concept of Arielle falling in love with Brian. Whatever charms the struggling writer possesses to turn the eye of a sophisticated woman are left off the screen, and Brian remains a rather whiny if infatuated young man. Anton Yelchin is dewy eyed but also miscast, unable to elevate the role beyond the star-struck American.

Brian's parents provide the comic relief and a contrast in bridges across the cultural divide. His mother Arlene is more than willing to give the liaison with a married woman every opportunity to thrive. His father Sam remains skeptical, barely tolerating Arielle's Frenchness, let alone the age difference and her marriage. Glenn Close and Frank Langella make for a fine married couple thriving in their eccentricities.

5 to 7 unravels in its final third, and the last 15 minutes are dominated by narration, Levin defaulting to describing rather than showing emotions. A great love can survive a lot, but it finally trips on a writer with too many words at his disposal.

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