Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Victor Levin
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Berenice Marlohe, Frank Langella, Glenn Close, Lambert Wilson, Olivia Thirlby, Eric Stoltz, Jocelyn DeBoer.
This low budget US/French co-production offers a refreshing take on modern relationships and cross cultural relationships and has a small charm that will win over some audiences. This was a long term passion project for writer and director Victor Levin, who first began developing the script in 2007.
Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin, from the rebooted Star Trek series, etc) is 24 and an aspiring writer, but he is also lonely and lacking in purpose after having received a mountain of rejection letters from publishers. But a chance encounter changes his life and opens him up to new experiences that inspire him and influence him. While walking the streets one day he comes across a beautiful woman smoking on the footpath outside the St Regis Hotel. He strikes up a conversation with Arielle (played by Skyfall Bond girl Berenice Marlohe). She is 33 and married to Valery (Lambert Wilson), a diplomat. She also has two young children. The connection between the pair is instant and palpable. In typically European style, Arielle is permitted to have an affair, provided that she adheres to some rules. She can only have a tryst between the hours of 5 and 7 in the evening, hence the film’s title.
At first this idea shakes up Brian’s rather conservative view, but he soon warms to the idea and the pair embark on a romantic interlude. They walk the streets of New York and their conversations explore the difference between French values and American ideals. She is more sophisticated and worldly than Brian and she manages to open him to new experiences and to a new world of sexual liberation and freedom. Brian even attends a lavish dinner party which is attended by the likes of celebrity chef Daniel Boulud, and Alan Gilbert, composer and conductor with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. It is an arrangement that works well, until Brian wants something more permanent and it puts a strain on their relationship.
Brian’s parents are a little nonplussed by the relationship. His mother Adele (Glenn Close) is more romantic and supportive of the relationship, while his father Sam (Frank Langella) is upset by the relationship with a “Mrs Robinson-type” seductress. He would prefer Brian to go to law school.
5 To 7 is an old fashioned, sentimental romance that relishes dialogue and the intimacy of the relationship rather than graphic sex or nudity, allowing the characters to form a strong emotional connection. This is the first feature film for writer/director Levin, who has worked extensively in television on series such as Mad Men, etc. He maintains an amiable and unhurried pace throughout and the look of the film has been heavily influenced by the French New Wave. And he obviously called in a few favours for some of the celebrity cameos laced throughout the film.
Cinematographer Arnaud Potier works with long takes, which lends the film a strong European sensibility and feel, and he also moves seamlessly from long shots to intimate close-ups. He makes the New York streets a character in the film. Locations include Central Park, the St Regis Hotel, the Carlyle Hotel and Manhattan’s Upper East Side. A nice touch also introduces us to park benches in Central Park which carry small labels, which also suggest some touching backstories about the people who placed them there and their epic love stories. They are also used to subtly signpost the next stage of the relationship between Brian and Arielle.
There is a palpable chemistry between the naive Yelchin and the alluring sultry Marlohe which adds to the film. Close and Langella are superb in their smaller supporting roles, and bring a touch of warmth and Jewish humour to proceedings and almost steal the film. Langella is wonderful with some perfect comic timing and dry wit, and he also contributes a running joke about the difficulty of finding parking spots in New York. Olivia Thirlby has a small but important role as Jane, a book editor who is also Valery’s 5 to 7 romance, which creates some awkward moments as well.
Some reviewers have compared the film to the work of Woody Allen (probably because of its New York setting) and playwright Neil Simon, although I must confess I didn’t find it quite that witty or entertaining. In fact I found it a little dull at times, and some of the dialogue was a little cliched. Also there were sound problems in the cinema where I saw the film and missed some of the softly spoken dialogue in intimate scenes.
The leisurely pace, laid back style, understated performances and the natural sounding dialogue reminded me more of Richard Linklater’s charming Before trilogy. And I feel that it should have ended a few minutes earlier, but Levin has stuck on a small epilogue which I felt didn’t quite work.