5 to 7 (★★★★)


5_to_7_tribeca_film_festival_dig_in_magazineTRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: The Tribeca Film Festival delivered a punch to my gut (and my heart) over the weekend when I caught the romantic dramedy 5 to 7. Going in, I knew that it was a romance story, but little more than that, and certainly not how funny it was going to be. That being said, writer/director Victor Levin balances out the laughs with some real emotion and some profound sadness, making the rare film of this ilk that can walk that line all but perfectly. Led by a career best performance by Anto Yelchin along with a lovely turn by Bérénice Marlohe (not to mention whip smart and amusing supporting roles for Glenn Close, Frank Langella, and Olivia Thirlby), 5 to 7 is my first surprise of the festival. Not just the best movie of the fest, it’s the best thing I’ve seen in 2014 so far, and it’s not really a close call either. This flick has something real to say about love and what the act of falling in love does to a person. The details of the story itself may be a bit unique, but the moral and the emotions that encompass it are universal. I’m not ashamed to admit that while I laughed a lot during the first half, there were a few times during the final moment where I got choked up, and one part of the last scene brought on the tears. 5 to 7 earned those tears too. Hopefully, it can earn a lot more as the year goes on.

The story begins by introducing us to Brian (Yelchin), a New Yorker in his mid 20’s struggling to make it as a writer. One day, while out on a walk in the streets of Manhattan, he passes by the St. Regis Hotel and spots a beautiful woman. He works up the courage to cross the street and talk to her, learning that her name is Arielle (Marlohe) and that she’s a French woman who has a smoke break at the same time each week. Immediately smitten, Brian meets Arielle again and they go on a date, which Brian thinks is going well until Arielle reveals that she’s married to a French diplomat and has two small children with him. Brian thinks that that’s the end of it, but Arielle is hoping to take Brian as a lover, much like her husband has done with book editor Jane (Thirlby). After some thought, he’s in, despite the utter bewilderment of his parents (Close and Langella). Everything is wonderful, though only between the hours of five and seven each night. He even is friends with her husband Valerie (Lambert Wilson). Eventually though, that’s not enough for Brian, and feeling that Arielle is in love with him too, he makes an all or nothing play for her heart.

I’ve long been a fan of Anton Yelchin, but he’s never been better than he is here. Not only is he very amusing and perfectly plays a young New York writer, but he hits the sadder emotional notes in a way that will blow you away. In a just world, Yelchin would be a Best Actor contender later on this year for this performance. The chemistry he shares with Bérénice Marlohe and Olivia Thirlby is terrific as well, though especially with Marlohe, with whom he has a tremendous romantic vibe. Marlohe is strong as well, helping to sell an admittedly foreign concept in such a way that you can see the appeal. Thirlby’s character could have become little more than a plot device, but her performance and the writing too combine to prevent that. Glenn Close and Frank Langella put an amusing spin on the time honored tradition of jewish parents in cinema, while other supporting players include the aforementioned Lambert Wilson as well as Eric Stoltz and David Shannon, to name a few. This is Yelchin’s show though, through and through.

Victor Levin has had a long career as a screenwriter, but nothing in his filmography suggests the sort of brilliance that his screenplay here depicts. Likewise, for a directorial debut, this is just fantastic. Levin has a feel for mixing comedy and drama that many a veteran has struggled with. In fact, the tone is decidedly light for the first half of the movie. It’s only in the third act where things take a very serious turn, going in a direction that not many flicks would dare to go. Levin was able to bring out tears of mine without any manipulation, so that should tell you something. I’d love to see Levin’s script get into the Best Original Screenplay conversation when that develops in the fall.

Without question, 5 to 7 is the best thing I’ve seen so far at the Tribeca Film Festival (out of a dozen films seen as of the writing of this review) and for the year on the whole so far too. With an awards worthy script and lead performance from Anton Yelchin, this is a damn near perfect bit of cinema. My first four star review of 2014 is an absolute must see. I’ll be banging the drum for 5 to 7 much more when it gets an official release, but for now, start getting excited for this one.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!