Mad Men writer Victor Levin takes the director’s seat for “5 to 7”
It’s been a long time since I wrote one of these, and I think it’s because I haven’t found the right movie to write about. I used to think that reviewing movies was all about watching the latest films and doing a write-up before your contemporaries. Of course, my love for film is not compromised when I say that. The reviews stem from a love of the art and its study that will never fade. I mean the specific movies I choose to write about.
I think the biggest reason I haven’t reviewed a movie in a while is because none of the ones I’ve watched have inspired me enough to want to further understand them to begin with. That’s why I initially started this blog; it gave me a new-found understanding of a film. I started a few, some I loved, some I disliked, others I hated. But for some reason, I could never finish.
But this one, I will.
Sunday nights are my favourite time of the week. They feel like the small gap between the end of something and the beginning of something else; a certain limit of time that is on the verge of an event that never comes. It feels like an escape from all that there is to be escaped from — if even for a little while.
And that is exactly what one feels when watching Emmy-nominated, Mad Men writer Victor Levine‘s directorial debut, 5 to 7. A cozy little film, 5 to 7 follows a struggling, 24 year-old writer, Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin), whose life turns upside down when he volunteers to enter an open relationship with a married Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe).
On first glance, the film would seem like any other one about an affair, but the fact that the relationship in question is an open one, and everyone is aware of what — or who — the other is doing, it becomes refreshing to watch. The progressive element spins a whole new twist on our perception and understanding of relationships.
The roles in the film were fantastically cast. Yelchin delivers a great performance as Brian Bloom. He showcases the character’s mannerisms and quirks in the most authentic way, bringing Brian to life in the most likable of ways. It takes a whole of ten minutes for the viewer to fall in love with the character — and for good reason. He is awkward, overthinking, curious, witty, and relatable in every sense.
Often in Romance films, we’re made to know that a certain actor/actress is the love interest, and we’re set up to like them just because they are so. We are never shown what it is about them that drives our main character so crazy. That is far from true in 5 to 7. Marlohe‘s Arielle is not only smart, witty, fun, and cultured, but she’s also a woman of classic beauty and elegance, inside and out. The actress adds her natural charm to the character, making her quite a likable — nay, lovable — character.
The two leads are supported by a host of talented actors and actresses including Olivia Thirlby, Lambert Wilson, and Hollywood powerhouses Glenn Close and Frank Langella, who steal the show with comical and well-delivered performances that cannot but make the viewer smile.
The score made the film reminiscent of a Woody Allen movie (think Midnight in Paris, Blue Jasmine). It’s a mesh of classical tunes (some in French) that transport the viewer to a romanticised escape not uncommon in some Hollywood romances. It’s become a trope to signify old-fashioned love, and while for some movies it’s forced and ill-fitting, 5 to 7 benefits from it given the film’s overall light-hearted content.
Most of the film’s vices and virtues go back to its script. Written and directed by Mad Men veteran Victor Levin, the script features some beautiful monologues (particularly the concluding one), witty dialogue, and interesting characters. Dialogue is a key component in keeping the viewer invested in the film. And where most films fail in this respect, 5 to 7 passes with flying colours.
That said, the script is not faultless. Throughout the movie, there is a certain focus on culture and cultural traditions and norms. while that could be interesting, the execution is quite sloppy. It feels like the elephant in the room that needs to be pointed out all the time, one that is rather unnecessary to the film’s plot. These references to culture become generalised and overbearing at one point in the movie.
Another flaw in the movie is its duration. The relationship started off way too quickly. Hardly a minute into meeting the main character, the plot already starts. An extra ten minutes in the beginning would have resulted in the perfect duration for this sort of movie. The viewer would have been better acquainted with Brian, at least.
It is also worth noting that the film tends to be a bit unrealistic taking into consideration the logic of the film’s world. This is easiest to spot in his parents’ reactions when Brian tells them about his relationship — and the nature of it. They represent the dichotomy of opinions regarding the matter, but that of the mother is just unethical.
Victor Levin‘s 5 to 7 explores the boundless nature of first love and heartache. Headed by a fantastic cast, all of whom do their part in making the film whole, a mostly beautifully-penned and charming script, and smart directing, the film is perfect for any Sunday evening watch. Not the best movie ever, but it definitely grips you and wins you over.
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