The French seem to have an expression or a saying for everything to do with having sexual relations especially, when it comes to extra-marital ones. In their daily routines there is a hazy two-hour window when the husband has left work and is on his way home and so his whereabouts can only be guessed. So this period from 5 pm to 7 pm is accepted in Parisian society as the time when mistresses can be met and liaisons kept and everyone is still home in time for dinner.
The existence of this practice was unknown to Brian a 24 year old struggling American writer when he encountered Arielle a sophisticated French woman sneaking in a cigarette outside a chic Manhattan Hotel one Friday afternoon. The two of them have an instant connection and she suggests that they meet up again the following week when she will be having her usual lunch date in the hotel. Arielle is older and wiser, and is also married and a mother of two, and when she reveals that fact to Brian he is rather devastated. Arielle gives him the option of not even starting the affair they are obviously heading for, and he does in fact manage to miss a couple of cigarette smoking dates until the third week and then he caves in, and there is no looking back.
Arielle explains that her husband is twenty years her senior and is a Diplomat at the French Consulate and he has a mistress called Jane and that everything is all open and above board with them. In fact one day as Brian is walking down the street a chauffeured town car pulls up and the person insists that he gets in. The passenger is Valery who introduces himself as Arielle’s husband and he explains that he just wants to check out the man who is making his wife so happy, and ends up inviting Brian to join the family for dinner this coming weekend.
He does even more than that and makes a point of introducing Brian to the very starry other dinner guests who include the Editor of New Yorker who ends up promising to read some of his work.
However Brian’s wealthy Jewish parents struggle to be quite so accepting of their only son’s choice of girlfriend when they learn of her back story, but they come around to being their usual supportive selves because it is obvious that he is very happy. So to is Arielle, and if that is not enough, Brian finally gets his first story published and life should be perfect. The trouble is that it is not. Brian had accepted the 5 -7 system when he was talked in to at the beginning and he has kept to the ‘rules’ of the arrangement. Now however he realizes that Arielle is the love of his life and so he wants to marry her and even become a stepdad to the kids. She feels exactly the same way, but she is part of a more traditional culture where one makes compromises in relationships. Neither Brian or she knows if she can really accept his proposal.
There is a very definite old-fashioned vibe to this totally charming and easy-to-digest romantic comedy which is the first feature film directed by writer & producer Victor Levin. Arielle played by stunning beautiful ex Bond Girl Bérénice Marlohe is a little too young to be a Mrs Robinson figure to the eager and virgin-like Brian, but she is definitely the one who is leading this relationship. Clever casting as baby faced Anton Yelchin as Brian would not at first seem an obvious fit as a lover for this experienced worldly Frenchwoman, but there is such perfect chemistry between the two of them that helps make this movie so much more convincing. As there is too between Brian’s gently meddling parents so beautifully played by Glen Close and Frank Langella. To round out the cast, Valery is played by handsome veteran French actor Lambert Wilson, and Olivia Thirlby plays Jane his mistress.
It’s refreshing to see a ‘mature’ romance, albeit that the couple were not that old, and is probable the closest and best American take on a French ‘boulevard comedy’ in recent times.