Sunday, August 16, 2015

Still the year's best love story: Victor Levin's sweet knockout, 5 TO 7, makes its DVDebut

When I covered 5 TO 7 just prior to its theatrical debut last April (that review is here),  I found it a remarkable example of culture-clash love story. Seeing it again this week on DVD -- where it will hit the streets for rental and purchase from IFC Films this coming Tuesday, August 18 -- I am even more impressed. On second viewing it holds up beautifully, delivering its charm, humor, surprise and sadness with a knockout combination of intelligence and grace. As written and directed by Victor Levin, it's an example of the height this genre can achieve, in which both grasp and reach are at one.

Mr. Levin, shown at right, has many more credits as writer than director, yet he has done a sterling job at both in this film. He's nailed the mind-set of a certain kind of writer -- his hero, Brian, played very well by Anton Yelchin -- without wasting any time trying to mimic the actual process of writing itself (something movies almost never get right and, in any case, is boring to view). He has given us the thrill and beauty of first love -- first real and important love, that is -- and balanced it quite deftly with life and all its compromises. Most important he's nailed the role of children and how defining they are in the decisions we make.

In tackling, as he does so well, the cultural difference between European and American mores regarding morality, sexuality and relationships, Levin has provided some utterly juicy roles for supporting characters -- Frank Langella and Glenn Close as Brian's parents -- and thoughtful, smart ones for actors such as Lambert Wilson and Olivia Thirlby, who play, respectively, the love object's husband and that husband's mistress.

As the love object herself, Arielle, the filmmaker has cast a remarkable performer, French actress Bérénice Marlohe, below, left, who uses her killer smile and graceful, mature composure to such devastating effect that she'll have you every bit as in thrall as she does our young hero. How the filmmaker employs Arielle's character to bring home his thoughts on compromise and life lessons is quite lovely, leading to a finale that balances poignancy with beauty, sadness and loss with a kind of joyful understanding and acceptance of that compromises we must make. And Levin's final line should resonate like crazy with most writers out there.

And yes, as on first viewing, I still feel that the movie works because the people here have no "money problems." This is a film about the entitled. Twice along the way, a character mentions something to the effect that, every so often life surprises us with its grace. Yes -- and especially, as here, when you don't have to worry about how you are going to afford your next meal.  Well, audiences in hard times have always flocked to movies in which the wealthy are seen at play. We still do, and I suspect that I'll return to 5 to 7 every once in awhile, to view a love story that understands the bigger picture and to be royally entertained while also being reminded of the costs involved. For you not to watch the film at least once would represent a real loss. 

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