5 to 7

5 TO 7,  US, 2014.  Starring Anton Yelchin, Berenice Marlohe, Lambert Wilson, Olivia Thirlby, Glenn Close, Frank Langella, Erich Stoltz, Jocelyn De Boer. Directed by Victor Levin. 95 minutes. Rated M (no consumer information provided).

“I love you” may seem the same, exactly the same, as the French phrase “Je t’aime”. This film reminds us they are not exactly the same at all, the cultural differences between the English language and the French language coming to the fore, but American moral stances compared with French moral stances, as we have often heard from the French, have quite a number of differences.

Perhaps this is not the best introduction to a film review of 5 to 7. But this reviewer liked it very much indeed, surprisingly so.

The phrase “5 to 7” is used by the French to indicate a time in the afternoon, between work hours and whatever is to take place in the evening, when affairs can be arranged and lived out. All Americans might have affairs, but this more explicit approach by the French, and the alleged rules by which the French have their 5 to 7 soirées, differs from the Americans and their more explicit moral stances.

Brian Bloom is a young would-be author, from a wealthy background, getting lots of rejection slips which he pastes on his wall, who encounters a Frenchwoman as they both have a cigarette in an afternoon break from work. He is immediately attracted. And so is the audience. She is Arielle (the name of The Little Mermaid as Brian notes) and is played by French actress Berenice Marlohe who was a strikingly memorable Bond girl in Skyfall who had quite an unhappy end. While she has the potential for an unhappy ending here, she is a woman who has an extraordinary smile, more than fulfilling the cliche saying that her smile would light up a room – and beyond. Fortunately for us all, and for Brian, she smiles a lot during this film.

He is 23. Sshe is 34. And she is married and has two young children. But, in the alleged French manner, so attracted is she by Brian, that she suggests a 5 to 7 arrangement, which he eagerly accepts. They meet frequently, enjoying each other’s company, going to art galleries, she blindfolding him to test his palette for red and white wines (he mistakes a white for a red) and then tests her for beer and Guinness (and she mistakes a Guinness for ordinary beer).

And her husband, Valerey (Lambert Wilson)? He also has a 5 to 7 arrangement with a young American editor, Jane (Olivia Thirlby). Personal relationships and social relationships are all carried out with the best of all possible good manners, Brian is invited to a meal at home by Valerey. And Brian takes Arielle’s children out and teaches them some elements of baseball.

Of course, the question is, how can such arrangements continue – if they are purely sexual arrangements, they could go on forever until one or other tires. But, if genuine love enters in, with a mixture of possessiveness and single fidelity, what could happen?

Which is what happens between Brian and Arielle. Again, civilised manners, except when Valerey momentarily strikes Brian. Brian declares his absolute love – but what of Arielle? The best thing for a reviewer to say is: go to see the film to find out and check how this ending fits with romantic sensitivities and moral sensibilities. Suffice to say that the film’s story goes on little longer than might have been expected, which gives a little more depth to the experience of all concerned.

An extra bonus for the audience is the presence of Glenn Close and Franklin Langella as Brian’s parents, he continually complaining about something, especially the price of parking and taxis in New York City, and also about his son’s relationship with a married woman. Glenn Close reminds us of what a good and significant actress she is.

The good memories from this film certainly last beyond 5 to 7.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

Becker    Released November 5th

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