Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"5 to 7": Polyamory (Im)Perfectly Put To Film

Now Available on DVD and Blu-ray

As I started to watch 5 to 7, I was filled with a bated mixture of cynicism and hope.  The film’s synopsis was intriguing because it seemed to be romance that flirted with a subject that films either don’t address at all or handle very poorly: open relationships.  As a polyamorous person myself, I rarely see the types of relationships I engage in adequately represented, so a film that purported to be a romance precisely in that vein was something that hooked me harder than it otherwise should have.  And, in all honesty, I’m only mildly disappointed.  This is, hands down, the best representation of polyamory that I have ever seen put to film.

The title derives from the rules of the main relationship at play.  Arielle and Brian meet while smoking outdoors one day, and he asks her when she would be available.  She says she is only available between the hours of five and seven p.m., which she eventually discloses to him is a condition of the open arrangement she has with her husband.  The film tends to portray this as an eccentricity of Arielle’s French origin, which is unfortunate but forgivable.  Brian agrees to the arrangement somewhat hesitantly, but soon finds that love can blossom in many forms.

The things I love about this film are that, even when portrayed through the lens of Brian’s outside perspective, polyamory seems like a valid and realistic prospect for developing multiple loving relationships.  He meets her husband, her kids, her husband’s girlfriend (a metamour for those unfamiliar with the terminology), and the only awkwardness seems to come from Brian’s unfamiliarity with this sort of family structure.  He introduces Arielle to his parents (played by a wickedly hilarious Glenn Close and Frank Langella in archetypically Jewish fashion) and, despite some obvious misunderstanding and necessary explanations, they come around to realize that this relationship is no less meaningful just because Arielle is married.  And that right there is what makes this film so astounding: the polyamorous nature of Arielle and Brian’s relationship (as well as Arielle’s husband and metamour) is almost never played for its oddity or its novelty.  It is a realistic and perfectly workable way to approach relationships, and seeing how that reflects my own life gave me such warm feelings.

Alas, despite how well the film does for the majority of its runtime, the climactic conflict certainly left me with some uneasy feelings.  Without spoiling the issue, Brian makes a decision that might have seemed romantic in a monogamous relationship, but consequently puts Arielle in an uncomfortable position.  The events that follow are open enough to interpretation that the film doesn’t entirely sink the good will that it had fostered up until that point, but it never fully recovers either.  The film would have likely seemed entirely devoid of conflict without some late-game twist, which would have been unfortunate; I only wish that the twist was so poorly transplanted from other, more monogamy-centric films.

That said, though, 5 to 7 is easily the best version of a polyamorous relationship I have seen portrayed on the screen.  It is at times funny and heartbreaking, and the connection between its leads feels real and rarely forced.  Its third act has problematic aspects, but I will certainly take this over nothing.  Whether you’re new to the concept of polyamory or would just like to see your relationship ethics portrayed in a movie, 5 to 7 is a good way to get that need met.

I can only think of one other film to at least neutrally portray polyamory: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Can you think of others?  Let me know in the comments below.

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