Adapted from the masturbatory fantasy shared by every struggling, straight male writer in Manhattan, 5 to 7 tells the wistful story of a nebbishy freelancer named Brian (Anton Yelchin) who stumbles into a torrid affair with a gorgeous, married French woman he sees smoking on the sidewalk outside a midtown department store. The title of Victor Levin’s debut feature may allude to cinq à sept affairs (the old Gallic custom of people cheating on their spouses during the hours between leaving work and arriving back home for dinner), but the film will disappoint anyone expecting a passionate sheet scorcher—it may sound like a melodrama, but this is purely the stuff of fairy tales.
Brian is thunderstruck from the moment he first sees Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe). The two of them get to talking, their cute but never particularly clever dialogue establishing the fundamental mismatch that makes their ensuing trysts so unconvincing. Arielle is a self-described 33-year-old “siren” with two children, a trail of lovers and a husband who has one of his own; Brian is a 24-year-old loner who lost his virginity on Passover. Arielle is married to a diplomat; Brian has never left the country. Marlohe is a former Bond girl (Skyfall); Yelchin was literally chewed up and spit out by Mia Wasikowska in a Jim Jarmusch movie (Only Lovers Left Alive). Though it’s understandable that the melancholy Arielle is moved by Brian’s passion for her, the contrasts between them always makes her seem like more of a babysitter than a paramour.
At its best, 5 to 7 is refreshingly sentimental in an age ruled by caustic irony, and the obvious fact that its romance is doomed from the start doesn’t make the film any less fantastical. This is a movie about how being in somebody’s thoughts is almost as good as being in their life, so for a creatively starved writer like Brian, heartbreak isn’t a risk so much as its own reward. Writer-director Levin, of course, never entertains the thought that Brian might just not have what it takes—the kid is just waiting to leverage the right woman into his muse. The predictable plot beats and the aching string score only serve to reinforce the feeling that Brian is knowingly providing the fodder for a story of his own sad design, a tale as trite as the ones he’s unsuccessfully submitted to every literary magazine in town.
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