5 to 7

Year: 2015
Production Co: Demarest Films
Director: Victor Levin
Writer: Victor Levin
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Bérénice Marlohe, Lambert Wilson, Olivia Thirlby, Glenn Close, Frank Langella, Eric Stoltz

One of the hardest kind of stories to tell is one that's romantic but not about sex, doesn't have any comedy, doesn't pander and isn't full of gilt-edged schmaltz.

But 5 to 7 does it. It might be because of Bérénice Marlohe, whose beauty and the exquisite mystique of her Frenchness might pull the wool over your eyes the whole time. It might be because of the enduring romance of New York City and the motifs that are so familiar even if you've never been there, from the rainy Streets to Central Park's remote controlled sailboats.

It's certainly not Anton Yelchin as the hero of the tale, Brian. The character itself is a great one – Brian is a Jack London-esque journeyman writer searching for magic in the world from the cusp of maturity and cynicism (he'll end up an embittered drunk like F Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway years in the future).

There's just something about Yelchin that doesn't suit it. His boyish voice makes him seem too young, too uncultured and uninterested in finding the beauty of embarking upon and conducting an affair with a beautiful French diplomat's wife.

The 5 to 7 of the title refers to the two hours per week Ariella (Marlohe) permits them to be together. In the Frenchest of Frenchiness, Ariella and her husband both have their affairs and know about them, and they successfully compartmentalise them from the rest of their lives, including each other and their kids.

But Brian finds himself falling head over heels, and soon 5 to 7 one day a week isn't enough. Even as he meets and is accepted into Ariella's family, making friends with Valery (Lambert Wilson) and the couple's son and daughter, he wants more of her.

The other dramatic conflict comes from an exploration of how different cultures view love and sexuality. Perhaps playing up to stereotypes we all think we know (but which probably aren't altogether true), the French woman knows how to have a sexual affair and enjoy it with her spouse's blessing, while the American kid can't help but feel like it's all wrong. As Brian says at one point in the film, he's sure he's racking up a debt the universe will make him pay eventually.

It's a worry his parents (played in a great couple of scenes by Frank Langella and Glenn Close) both stoke and salve with their own attitudes to his situation, and it comes to a head when Brian buys Ariella an expensive piece of jewelery and tries to convince her to leave her family and be with him.

I won't reveal how it ends, but there's a chance meeting in the last scene of the film that will break your heart a little bit. There was magic in the world, Brian held it in his hands for awhile, but when we leave him he's on the way to becoming the embittered cynic he'll inevitably become, despite the single smash hit book under his belt about the love that changed him.

Writer/director Victor Levin doesn't set out to titillate or tease despite having two photogenic stars. He's made a love story for grown ups that doesn't rely on stupid hijinks or dollops of Nicholas Sparks saccharine. It's one of the few movies that will remind you there are kinds of magic that do still exist in the world, but remind you that they're cruelly hard to hold on to.

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