5 to 7 (2014)

5 to 7 (2014)
  • Time: 95 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama | Romance
  • Director: Victor Levin
  • Cast: Olivia Thirlby, Anton Yelchin, Bérénice Marlohe, Glenn Close


In New York, an aspiring novelist has a cinq-a-sept affair with the beautiful wife of a French diplomat. Cultures, world views, personal ethics and dietary preferences clash as love deepens, with remarkable results. Romance, drama and comedy.

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  • She is exotically beautiful and smoking a cigarette. “We are exiles, the smokers,” he says, his opening gambit drawing out her smile. She tells him her name is Arielle and raises an eyebrow when he notes, “Just like The Little Mermaid?” Remember that mermaids are also sirens and they are seductive, tempting, and lead men to their doom.

    In 5 to 7, the willing victim is one Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin), a 24-year-old struggling writer whose Upper East Side apartment is wallpapered with rejection letters. His life revolves around writing, but he hasn’t lived or experienced enough for his work to have any weight. Then he meets Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe) – 33, a former model, worldly and sophisticated. She is also married and a mother of two, facts which take Brian by surprise since they had been engaging in a weeks-long mutual flirtation. She’s amused at his confusion – didn’t he understand her status when she said she was only free between the hours of five and seven PM?

    In the French culture, she explains, the “cinq a sept” period is that hazy window of opportunity for Parisian men to visit their mistresses before coming home to their wives. Arielle and her husband Valery (Lambert Wilson), a diplomat at the French consulate, have an open relationship with no guilt or shame. She is aware of his young mistress Jane (Olivia Thirlby), whom she often runs into at various social functions. Brian initially rejects Arielle’s offer for an affair – it doesn’t fit his moral code – but soon succumbs when he is unable to do anything except think of her.

    Brian’s discomfort at their arrangement never truly disappears. He is understandably unsettled when Valery warmly welcomes him into the fold, even inviting him to a dinner party attended by the likes of famed chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud and celebrated conductor and violinist Alan Gilbert. Even Valery and Arielle’s children are nonplussed at his presence, telling him how happy they are that he is their mother’s boyfriend. Jane counsels him not to get hung up in the unconventionality of it all and urges him to appreciate what he has while it lasts. After all, “If you want to be a good writer, you can’t have a mediocre life.”

    Writer-director Victor Levin’s debut builds itself on gossamer wings. For most of its running time, 5 to 7 inhabits an old-fashioned, unabashedly romantic, enchanted twilight time where people breakfast at Tiffany’s, conduct assignations at the St. Regis, and have bittersweet encounters at the Guggenheim. It is a wonderful and charming spell to be under, but it is also a spell that can be easily broken if, even for the slightest moment, one starts to question the film’s implausibilities.

    Take its central couple – a preposterously mismatched pair. Arielle is galaxies out of his league and yet Brian, according to Valery, is the first to put a light in her eyes. Arielle compliments Brian for being a natural lover, using his body to express what’s in his heart. This line of dialogue is prime for extensive eye-rolling. In fact, the whole of 5 to 7 is readily available for such ridicule. Yet Levin invests the film with a heartfelt sincerity so unassailable that one feels churlish for thinking of puncturing the bubble of fantasy.

    Levin has gathered a fine cast. Frank Langella and Glenn Close are curiously cast as Brian’s Jewish parents but are nonetheless perfect as they fuss and bicker over their boy. Thirlby is effervescent and Wilson suitably suave. Yelchin is very good, but Marlohe is even better. The ex-Bond girl exudes radiance and tenderness, and it is because of her warmth and Levin’s finesse that 5 to 7 sustains the airiness of its romance and ends on a stunningly poignant note.

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