5 to 7 is set in modern-day Manhattan, but it’s old-fashioned in the best sense. It expresses a belief in love as something miraculous and transformational. It says that love makes people what they are and provides the experiences that reverberate for a lifetime.
Most people would agree with those sentiments, but love stories go in and out of fashion, and it has been two generations since “boy meets girl” was the movies’ most popular formula. 5 to 7 isn’t boy meets girl, exactly, so much as boy meets woman. Or, to be more accurate, young man meets utterly fantastic woman.
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Lest my enthusiasm for Berenice Marlohe tip my hand too early, it’s probably best to say straight out that 5 to 7 is in that rare category of romantic drama that seems aimed for a male audience. Like the first two Before movies, in which Ethan Hawke stood there as an acceptable surrogate while men in the audience had a virtual date with Julie Delpy, the young man here is secondary. His job is to be the inoffensive receptacle for amazing good luck.
An aspiring writer, Brian (Anton Yelchin) is walking down a sidewalk one day and sees a beautiful woman across the street smoking a cigarette. He walks over, strikes up a conversation and lo and behold, she likes him. She’s French, and he’s American. She’s 33, and he’s 24, but the age difference doesn’t put her off. She finds him charming. Yes, love is miraculous.
When they meet again, she tells him that she is free most nights from 5 o’clock to 7, which apparently is code for saying that she is married. She is the wife of a wealthy diplomat and has two kids. It’s a very Continental situation. The husband (Lambert Wilson) has a girlfriend on the side, but Arielle (Marlohe) and he have an understanding: As long as the extramarital liaisons are kept between the hours of 5 to 7, no one has cause to complain.
5 to 7 follows the progress of Brian and Arielle’s love affair, while also keeping track of Brian’s development as a writer — two elements that are related. He starts off the film as talented, but with nothing to say. Arielle is his education in emotional life.
Marlohe gives Arielle worldliness and wisdom, while making it credible that this remarkable woman would pick some unpreposessing kid as her lover, with all of New York at her disposal.
As for Yelchin, think of him as like Kristen Stewart in Twilight. His job is to seem almost worthy of his romantic fortune, but not so attractive as to prevent viewers from thinking that, in similar circumstances, in the right time and place, things will work out for them, too.
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Berenice Marlohe, Lambert Wilson, Olivia Thirlby, Frank Langella, Glenn Close.
Writer-director: Victor Levin.
An IFC Films release. Running time: 95 minutes. Sexual content, adult themes. In Miami-Dade: Cosford Cinema, Tower; in Broward: Cinema Paradiso Hollywood.