Victor Levin’s new film, 5 To 7, is a rehashing of the “struggling young writer finds inspiration through life experience” story with all of the tropes you could hope (or not)  to find.  Even the more predictable elements are at play, with a weepy love story pushing the narrative forward.  Even though this may be too familiar of a scenario to latch on to, there’s still something very endearing about the film that satisfies on multiple levels.

The story follows Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin), a twenty-something New York writer who wears his failures as a badge of honor, with rejection letters from literary magazines strewn about his midtown apartment.  One day, while walking through Manhattan, he’s struck by the vision of a beautiful French woman named Arielle (Berenice Marlohe) standing outside the St. Regis Hotel.  They strike up a conversation, and eventually move on to meeting for a cigarette every Friday before advancing their encounters into a legitimate date.  Brian learns that Berenice is married, but her customs allow for her to fraternize between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., without the consequences of infidelity.  While initially hesitant, Brian allows himself to explore the opportunity, and the two embark on a passionate love affair, as long as they play by the rules of 5 to 7.  Though, as the relationship progresses and feelings come into play, the future of their agreement becomes uncertain.

5 to 7 - Bérénice Marlohe & Anton Yelchin

Any astute filmgoer will predict the ending of 5 To 7 within the first 20 minutes of the film, and Victor Levin doesn’t seem to mind if you do.  There’s nothing revolutionary about the story, and yet there’s something magnetic about it.  The lion’s share of this fascination is due in large part to the excellent cast of the film, and the deeply engaging characters they play.  Anton Yelchin is terrific as Brian, and because his age is appropriately aligned with that of his character, there’s an added legitimacy to the story.  Frank Langella and Glenn Close play his bickering parents, and provide some much-needed moments of levity in the film.  Olivia Thirlby plays Brian’s counterpart, Jane, who has a similar arrangement with Arielle’s diplomat husband Valery.  Thirlby is almost always on point, and here she acts as a touchstone for Brian, allowing him to let go and embrace the connection that he shares with Arielle.

The real standout in this cast is Berenice Marlohe.  As Arielle, Marlohe is warm, inviting, and projects the character’s vulnerability in a fascinating way.  She has an enchanting quality that is disarming, and it also helps that she is an absolute knockout.  Whereas Skyfall gave audiences a sneak peek at the full extent of her abilities, 5 To 7 lets her really crack open her skillset, and she employs it here with remarkable effect.  You can believe the attraction that Brian finds with her, and it may not have worked if another actress had played the role.

The first half of the film is more whimsical, with the pleasantries of a new relationship marking different points of the first and second act.  By the third act, the film makes a dramatic shift and the tone of the story becomes a little uneven.  I understand the reasons and motivation behind it, and most anybody will see it coming, but it almost feels like I watched two different films.  Nevertheless, the conclusion of the story is satisfying and plausible enough that audiences may be willing to forgive these missteps.

5 To 7 isn’t a perfect film, but it does a remarkable job of engaging the audience with just enough charm to distract from its wholly unoriginal story.  It harkens back to romantic dramas of yesterday like Roman Holiday.  It’s obviously not on the same level as those classics, but it is a rich, and emotional love story that trumps any of the run-of-the-mill Nicholas Sparks adaptations we’re constantly inundated with.