5 to 7 finds love in brief pockets of time
The independent film 5 to 7 tells the story of Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin), a struggling young writer in New York, who meets a beautiful Frenchwoman (Bond girl Bérénice Marlohe) on the street. Brian and Arielle soon embark on a relationship that, due to the terms of her marriage, only allows them to see each other between the hours of 5 and 7 on weekday evenings. In the process, Brian's – and, by extension, the audience's – definition of love and marriage is tested and expanded, with bittersweet results.
Victor Levin, producer of the Emmy award-winning, long-running sitcom Mad About You, wrote and directed 5 to 7, an idea that percolated for two decades. A 1987 sojourn in Paris at the home of a couple with a cinq à sept arrangement made him somewhat circumspect about his attitudes. "I was taken aback; I was a middle-class kid from the suburbs and this kind of thing wasn't on the syllabus," Levin says. "Of course your first impulse is to judge it according to the rules you've been taught. But I watched them and kept my mind open, and they were happy and respectful.
"It occurred to me that there were different approaches to marriage than I had been taught and that deserved respect."
The strict Judeo-Christian definition of marriage as one man and one woman is certainly what troubles Brian at the outset of his relationship with Arielle. But 5 to 7, a screening of which the Austin Film Society hosts on Valentine's Day weekend, also explores the nuances of the other kinds of love that surround us every day, namely, parental love and philia, the kind of love found within the bonds of friendship.
But the love story in question is not all exquisite roses and expensive chocolate in well-appointed hotel rooms. For Levin, an honest depiction of love – even while the rest of the plot whirls fantastically around the central story – was priority No. 1. "I can't stand movies where everything's neat and clean and you know how everything's going to end. That's nonsense to me," he says. "Love is messy. 'Happily ever after' is the biggest myth of all."
Levin credits the successful transition of his vision from page to screen in part to producer Bonnie Curtis, who will be in attendance at Friday's screening. Curtis, whose credits include Saving Private Ryan, A.I., and Minority Report, will be honored at the Texas Film Awards in March.
"It's rare to find someone whose artistic goals are as high on their list of priorities as hers," Levin says. "She's worked on some spectacularly successful commercial films, so she knows of what she speaks. She's interested in what will make the movie better, not just what will sell more tickets."
There are no perfect love stories, just as there are no perfect films (okay, maybe there are one or two floating around out there). Some might say that one of 5 to 7's flaws is its sentimentality; these days, sentimentality doesn't sell as many tickets as scruffy intergalactic superheroes, mockingjays, and hobbits do. But that doesn't mean that there's not a time or place for a story that explores the tenderer dimensions of love in all its messiness, even if it's just for a brief window of time, every once in a while.
The Austin Film Society hosts a screening of 5 to 7 Friday, Feb. 13, 8pm, at the Marchesa Hall & Theatre. A reception precedes the film at 7pm. Co-star Bérénice Marlohe, writer/director Victor Levin, and producer and Texas Film Hall of Fame honoree Bonnie Curtis will be in attendance.