“A largely traditional movie, stoically lumbering through its takes on love without taking any particular risks.”
by Ken Bakely
He’s a writer. He loves saying that – but it’s only true in the most literal sense of the term. He’s still unpublished, he admits. The wall of his studio apartment is decorated with rejection letters from editors and publishers. He’s thrilled by the fact that The Atlantic added the word “sorry” this time when turning down his latest submission. He can’t understand why he hasn’t broken through yet, why he seems to be circling the drain, on the cusp of some kind of revelation which seems tantalizingly distant. When we first meet Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin), the protagonist of Victor Levin’s 5 to 7, this is where he is in life. He’s twenty-four, lives in New York City, and believes that he’s only steps away from destiny.
This turns out to be correct, but it won’t happen in the way he expects it to. One day, while walking the streets of Manhattan, he encounters a woman (Bérénice Marlohe). They have a smoke and share the lighter. Her name is is Arielle. She’s French, and he impresses her with his grasp of the language. They get along well, and decide to go on a date. Arielle informs him that she’s only available to meet him in a two hour window on any given day. Brian finds this rule strange. He finds the explanation even stranger. Arielle is married to Valery (Lambert Wilson), a diplomat. They have an open marriage, and can conduct affairs only if they see their partners between five and seven in the evening. Brian’s taken aback by this, and at first finds the idea revolting. But they give it a shot, and it works. Yet as time goes on, his deeper emotions and wants alter the nature of their fling, and matters are complicated to fundamental degrees.
Despite its untraditional logline, 5 to 7 is a largely traditional movie, stoically lumbering through its takes on love without taking any particular risks. Everything is telegraphed. The script is structured like a procedure, with a workmanlike rhythm that fails to challenge. It feels like it’s about to end on around five different occasions, and chooses to go out on the most contrived one. Levin has said that he based the story on a real married couple he met once, who had an arrangement like the one he has created – indeed, the movie reeks of that kind of self-adapting, where the details take a backseat.
What makes it watchable? Yelchin, Marlohe, and the supporting cast they are surrounded with. One of the film’s funniest scenes features the two having dinner at the Carlyle with Brian’s parents (Glenn Close and Frank Langella). We see where Brian gets his neuroses and views from, as they gripe on and on in the most well-meaning of ways. When Arielle drops the bomb that she’s thirty-three, has a husband, and two children, an ensuing argument between Langella and Yelchin’s characters in the hotel’s back alleyway is wonderful in its lived-in, terse nature. A couple of years on from its release, 5 to 7’s best, and most unintentional, observation is how gifted Yelchin was at creating an interesting character from a malformed screenplay. Cynical critics will sometimes say a talented performer is “wasted” in a subpar movie. You could never say that about Yelchin, because he never seemed to be adrift. The only real emotions this movie is capable of bringing about have nothing to do with its content, but rather the fact that we have to write these sentences about its lead actor in the past tense.
5 to 7 feels unsatisfying. We can laugh at its comedic achievements – one sequence comes to mind, when Arielle blindfolds Brian and is amused that he can’t tell the difference between red and white wine, juxtaposed by a succeeding scene where a blindfolded Arielle is unable to differentiate between Miller Lite and Guinness. We can revel in the sappiness of its later moments and the overbearing string score. But the movie hasn’t actually achieved anything. In a way, Brian’s initial worldview at the beginning of the movie turns out to be intrinsically confirmed to him by the end. And the ride to get there isn’t even that exciting or original. The moments are good, but the journey is weak. In all its 97 minutes, nothing seems to be learned, or thought out beyond the most perfunctory of ways.