UK International Jewish Film Festival

Romance blossoms in 5 to 7, screened by UK Jewish Film, in the run-up to the UK International Jewish Film Festival (5–20 November 2016). Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) takes the lead as Brian Bloom, a writer in love with quintessential French lady Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe). Brian and Arielle spot each other across a New York street, strike up a conversation and a cigarette, and start dating.

Despite some initial reservations on discovering that Arielle is 33 years old, in an open marriage and has two children, Brian, 24, pursues the relationship between the agreed hours of 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., long enough to spend some quality time in a luxurious hotel suite or out and about in New York. Director Victor Levin (producer and writer of Mad About You and Mad Men) imbues the city with romance, epitomised by the shots of plaques on Central Park benches dedicated to lost loved ones, with similar effect to the talking heads in When Harry Met Sally.

As Brian and Arielle fall for each other, they must test their commitment to the rules, and ultimately she must choose between her lover and her family.

The strength of the film lies in Yelchin’s performance. Brian’s romantic infatuation and burgeoning career emphasise youthful promise, yet watching Yelchin here brings a particular poignancy, as he died in a car accident in June 2016. 5 to 7 seems like an unashamed Woody Allen pastiche, complete with cameos from luminaries such as New Yorker editor David Remnick. Clichés and stereotypes are almost celebrated, and even bedroom scenes are accompanied by French love songs. Little is demanded of Marlohe but to smile and wear chic dresses, and Glenn Close is entirely unconvincing as Brian’s Jewish mother (obsessed with the comfort of chairs), acting alongside Frank Langella as parking-preoccupied Dad.

The dialogue is, in turn, witty and twee, with some good lines going to Brian. Discussing losing his virginity over Passover one year, he compares matzah unfavourably to sex, saying “matzah doesn’t really change over the years”. Perhaps romantic sensibility doesn’t either, and fans of new sincerity and old-fashioned love stories will enjoy the fantasy of 5 to 7.

Offering an honest, realistic and decidedly unglossy view of love is The New Man, an intimate documentary co-directed by Josh Appignanesi (The Infidel) and wife Devorah Baum. The New Man exposes the tensions and traumas of contemporary parenthood, following the couple through assisted conception, pregnancy and giving birth.

The New Man is a study in male anxiety, with the film-making process helping Appignanesi to cope with impending fatherhood and the various bumps along the way. The portrayal of the father-to-be’s helplessness and fear bears similarities to Nanni Moretti’s April.

While Baum is credited as co-director, it is clear that the project began as Appignanesi’s film, with the ever-present camera giving the restless film-maker a practical outlet for his nervous energy, and taking on a more profound function of memorialisation over the course of the pregnancy.

Footage of day-to-day life is combined with conversations with family, friends (who often happen to be famous), fathers and father figures. We are drawn to empathise with not only Appignanesi, but also Baum, who comes across as wise, patient and spiritually religious—but no less terrifed than Appignanesi is.

At times the high emotions and traumatic events make tough viewing, but for many the film will make for a welcome and refreshing contribution to the public debate surrounding the realities of pregnancy and fatherhood. The New Man is released in late November.

The UK International Jewish Film Festival runs 5-20 November 2016.

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