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Film Review: '5 to 7' - A Break from Convention

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Bérénice Marlohe (Arielle) and Anton Yelchin (Brian) in Victor Levin’s '5 to 7.' Courtesy of Walter Thomson. An IFC Films release.

While an affair conducted between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m. may suggest trappings of a clichéd rom-com, 5 to 7 is much more unconventional than that. Written and directed by Victor Levin (Mad Men), the story looks at an extramarital affair through new eyes, to discover the intricacies that lurk in the places many people gloss over when making assumptions about someone’s love life.

Starring Bérénice Marlohe (Skyfall) as the beautiful French “sirène” Arielle, a mother of two who is married to a French diplomat, and Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) as Brian Bloom, the younger unpublished writer who falls for her beauty and charm, on paper this could be just another traditional romance set amid the towering skyscrapers of New York City. However, with Arielle’s words, “Put aside your notions about how people are, Brian. The world will surprise you with its grace if you let it,” we can tell we are watching a film that will stray from the path.

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Courtesy of IFC Films.

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Bérénice Marlohe (Arielle) and Anton Yelchin (Brian) in Victor Levin’s '5 to 7.' Courtesy of Walter Thomson. An IFC Films release.

Thanks to some hard work by producers Bonnie Curtis and Julie Lynn, the team were able to film scenes in and around landmarks such as the St. Regis hotel, the New Yorker magazine offices, Central Park, the Guggenheim Museum and the New York Public Library, not to mention Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue. This instantly ensures the production is grounded in its authenticity, oozing classic style and the charm of real-world experience.

Staying grounded in the real world is a significant theme for 5 to 7, which asks realistic questions of its characters. Brian finds his preconceptions about the ethics of life and the boundaries of love tested at every turn, and Arielle finds a surprise in her vulnerability and depth of feelings for her young lover.

As Brian’s writing career begins to take off, so do his feelings for Arielle, and soon he finds himself unable to contain himself to their agreed upon time. When the question of how far someone with familial responsibilities should go for true love rears its head, we get a lesson in harsh reality coupled with the touching innocence of hope, and above all we are able to identify with the plausibility of these decisions.

 

Alongside a tightly woven, witty script, the cast is just as strong. Lambert Wilson (Suite Française) and Olivia Thirlby (Juno) add an element of welcoming sophistication as Arielle’s husband and his mistress, and Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs) and Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) provide the flip side of witty comedy and gentle disapproval as Brian’s parents, who struggle with his unconventional romance. There are also some surprising cameos by New Yorker magazine editor David Remnick, music conductor Alan Gilbert, social activist Julian Bond and chef Daniel Boulud, all playing their distinguished selves.

The amalgamation of French and American culture can not only be felt in these tested and rising stars, but in the comparisons and contrasts that Arielle and Brian’s relationship brings to light. Despite their differing outlooks on life and love, the two characters are able to find a mutual affection for each other that is neither sordid nor shameful, and it is a beautiful situation to witness.

As Brian Bloom learns, it is difficult to be a good writer if you live a mediocre life. In 5 to 7, Levin is not afraid to break with the conventions expected of a romantic comedy, favoring honesty over unrealistic situations, however still ensuring that his lead character experiences enough of the extraordinary to reignite his passion for writing.