The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"5 TO 7"

5 to 7E

5 to 7 is the Before Sunrise of infidelity. It's a movie where we hear people talking about romance more than we see them actually being romantic, and yet all the incipient emotions still come through loud and clear. There's enough provocativeness in the concept to potentially garner some controversy or outrage. To look at it that way would be to miss the point, though. 5 to 7 is not so much about cheating as it is about the way different cultures view the subject.

Anton Yelchin plays Brian, an aspiring novelist living and working in New York City. His creative mojo isn't exactly thriving, so he goes for walks around Manhattan. During one of them, he meets Arielle (Skyfall's Berenice Marlohe), a charming, slightly older French woman. They strike up a conversation over a cigarette, then meet again a week later to repeat the process. There is chemistry between them, but Arielle is married to a diplomat named Valery (Lambert Wilson). Brian tries to call off their burgeoning romance. She urges him to reconsider, saying that “5 to 7 romances” (named for the late afternoon/early evening hours when they're carried out) are not such a big deal in Europe. In fact, Valery has a second relationship of his own with a young woman named Jane (Olivia Thirlby). As Brian reluctantly enters into this unusual romantic arrangement, Jane coaches him in the art of compartmentalizing his life – and Arielle's affections.

Written and directed by Victor Levin, 5 to 7 doesn't condone extramarital relationships, yet it doesn't condemn them either. Levin is not so much interested in moral issues as he is in personal ones. Brian has genuine depth of feeling for Arielle, so he agrees to be her “other” simply in order to be with her. She makes him feel alive in a way he hasn't up to this point in his life. On her end, Arielle is quite happily married to Valery. They even have kids together. Nonetheless, she feels sincere love for Brian, too. The movie avoids judging its characters in order to look at the situation in which they find themselves.

There is an old saying about relationships that is sometimes referred to as the 80/20 Rule. It states that, on balance, we get about 80% of what we want/need from our partners. It's only when we become fixated on the other 20% that we get in trouble. 5 to 7 uses this general idea for drama. Arielle and Valery are people who, essentially, are trying to get the full 100%. They get 80% of what they need from one another, with the other 20% coming from their outside partners. Jane is quite happy getting only about 20% of what she needs from Valery; she simply isn't a hardcore commitment kind of gal. But Brian is an 80% kind of guy, and only getting part of his needs met creates inner turmoil. Does he walk away and lose someone he loves, or does he stay, knowing that he'll never quite be in the center of Arielle's heart?

5 to 7 addresses its subject matter with smart dialogue and witty humor, as opposed to melodrama. There is very little sex, but a lot of discussion about matters of the heart among the characters. The film, if you surrender to its premise, is much more probing about whether love can be parceled out or divided up than anything. It also asks the audience to examine how much is enough when it comes to love. If you care about someone deeply and truly, is it okay to not have a full commitment from them, or is it better to step out altogether and deal with the hurt?

Anton Yelchin gives a strong performance, conveying the complicated way that Brian's rationale clashes with his emotional side. He has a nice, easy chemistry with Berenice Marlohe, who convincingly captures the “anything goes” casualness that many Europeans possess (or are accused of possessing, at least). As a bonus, Glenn Close and Frank Langella earn laughs in supporting roles, playing Brian's comically bickering parents, who have very different reactions to his predicament. Since the film is so character-based, the actors are essential, and this cast rises to the occasion.

5 to 7 doesn't come to any profound conclusions about infidelity or love, and it's hard to shake the feeling that it could go even deeper into the subject matter than it does. Still, this is an enjoyable examination of people trying to sort out their thoughts in the midst of a complex entanglement. It ends on a suitably bittersweet note that strikes a chord regardless of the provocative nature of the premise. 5 to 7 is the nicest, sweetest movie about an extramarital affair that you will ever see.

( out of four)

Note: 5 to 7 opens theatrically April 3, and will be available on VOD April 10.

5 to 7 is rated R for some sexual material. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.

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