In order to accept 5 to 7, viewers must first accept its protagonist, Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin). He’s an unpublished fiction writer with financial support from his parents who manages to seduce a married French woman, gain access to New York’s cultural elite, and land a book deal with a major publisher. This is a guy whose walls in his Upper East Side apartment are lined with rejection letters from major publications, and if his writing is anything like the narration he provides, it’s no wonder he’s constantly rejected.
In any case, that married woman – Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe), a former model – is taken by his clumsy conversational style and his command of the French language. She agrees to see him, but only between the hours of five and seven at night, a traditional timeframe for the French to meet their lovers between work and nights with their children.
Writer/director Victor Levin maintains a level of superficiality that manages to make the film surprisingly tender. Conversations lean on the idea of a specific, fading image of Frenchness, and an equally specific image of Jewishness. The conversations between the aloof Arielle and neurotic Brian take place in walks through Central Park and in meetings in a hotel room. For a film about an affair, 5 to 7 is surprisingly chaste, preferring to stick to those conversations and concepts of gender and cultural differences. While conflict does eventually come about, it takes a while to even hint at an appearance. An encounter with Arielle’s husband leads to Brian being invited to a swanky dinner party. When Brian tells his parents about his relationship with Arielle, including the details about her marriage and children, their concerns are largely assuaged by meeting her.
There’s a hazy wandering that permeates the film, occasionally punctuated by Yelchin and Marlohe’s comic timing and chemistry. Yelchin gets more to work with, and he manages to make the earnest Brian amiable enough. Marlohe gets less to work with; Arielle is more of an object of desire than a fully-formed character. But she’s able to keep the film afloat, especially when the conflict finally arises in one of the film’s few out-and-out missteps. That the conflict arrives as late as it does in the film lets the lighthearted nature of the film as a whole dominate, which is just enough for audiences to buy in to most of the film.